Friday, August 16, 2019

Dateline 1945 – The “Knowledge” Economy Propaganda Machine

0 comments

 One hundred years ago, Everett Dean Martin was appointed to serve as chairman of the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures in an effort to advance the emerging movie entertainment genre.  Having spent nearly a decade of his life as the First Congregational Church in Lombard, Illinois, he became a national evangelist for the psychological paradox he saw unfolding with the proliferation of technology outpacing education of citizens sufficient to keep them fully informed of how to consume media and messages.  Having seen how the technology of late 19th and early 20th century religion had been effectively co-opted by business, politics, and civil society, he campaigned against those who appealed to self-serving and “ignoble” instincts to shape public behavior, belief, actions and thought.  In the wake of the demagoguery that inflamed the horrors of World War I, he knew that, “the crowd is a state of mind,” and the capacity for masses to fixate on delusional ideology gave near omnipotence to the “enemies of humanity”.  In his 1920 essay The Mob Mind vs. Civil Liberty, Martin anticipated the “pandemonium of propaganda” that was inevitable when technology afforded greater access to ideology than to expansive and liberal education.  It is with some irony that the motion picture board to which he was appointed would one day help fulfill his greatest fears.

“Certain crowd-movements in America today give marked evidence of this unconscious motivation. Notice how both the radical and reactionary elements behave when, as is frequently the case with both, the crowd-spirit comes over them. Certain radicals, who are fascinated with the idea of the Russian Revolution, are still proclaiming sentiments of human brotherhood, peace, and freedom, while unconsciously they are doing just what their enemies accuse them of-playing with the welcome ideas of violence, class war, and proletarian dictatorship. And conservative crowds, while ostensibly defending American traditions and ideals against destructive foreign influence, are with their own hands daily desecrating many of the finest things which America has given to the world in its struggle of more than a century for freedom and justice. Members of each crowd, while blissfully unaware of the incompatibility of their own motives and professions, have no illusions about those of the counter-crowd. Each crowd sees in the professions of its antagonist convincing proof of the insincerity and hypocrisy of the other side. To the student of social philosophy both are right and both wrong. All propaganda is lies, and every crowd is a deceiver, but its first and worst deception is that of itself.”

This critique, written one hundred years ago today could be republished in 2019 with no editing and be seen as the epitaph to the century past.

Martin died in 1941.  He didn’t live to see the immediate fulfillment of his worst fears.  The V-2 rocket, the U-boat, signal intelligence and encryption, broadcast propaganda all unleashed the inhumane fury that he sought do desperately to warn humanity against.  When in response to the industrial consequence of largely German propaganda-fueled innovation the Allies realized that they had been bested, a more malignant propaganda economy was born.  Unable to compete with superior ideas and innovations for the most part (save the notable atomic initiative), the industries of Allied economies in the 1940s were dictated by espionage-acquired intercepts and salvaged technologies – not by the ingenuity of their engineers and scientists.  From 1945 – 1959, Operation Paperclip (the collection of German engineers and scientists through overt and covert operations) did more to fuel the second half of the twentieth century than any other single action.  While telling the story of technological supremacy to reinforce the “winning” narrative dear to the US psyche, the nation was duped into believing that Americans were dictating the industrial technology agenda rather than scaling and appropriating the intellect of others.  We weren’t defining what America needed.  Rather, we were reflexively responding to evidence of the supremacy of “others”.  Remember, the modern computer was not born of U.S. or British science.  British, US, and Australian intelligence were driven to produce countermeasures to the superior technology that Japanese and German cypher engineers and mathematicians invented.

I spent the past few days in Boston and Silicon Valley.  The frequency with which I was accosted with the term made popular by Peter Drucker fifty years ago in his book The Age of Discontinuity – the “Knowledge Economy” – was deafening.  At one point, I snapped.

“We don’t live in a Knowledge Economy,” I said.  “We have been living in the Propaganda Economy.”

The words barely escaped my lips before I realized that this observation has been what I’ve spent the past three decades of my life attempting to overcome.  Reflecting on the dire prophecies of Everett Martin, recounting the socioeconomic adoration of Peter Drucker, I realized that since the end of the Second World War, we’ve abdicated “knowledge” for reflexive and compulsive enterprises which serve not the benefit of humanity in the main but rather seek to satiate the unconsidered consumption of incremental industrial output.  We are told what to fear (and desire) – morbidity, mortality, economic and egoic existential ‘threats’.  Then we’re told what and how to consume antidotes for manufactured “needs”.  We’re deluded into “choosing” among indecipherable “alternatives” (Apple vs. Android; Prescription vs. Wholistic; Industrial vs. Organic; Green vs. Polluting) while being ignorant to the ever-narrowing aperture delimiting unconstrained innovation.  We have over 10 million patents on less than 50,000 products.  We have the proliferation of “information” curated by advertiser-fueled “technologies” without considering the inherent influence or bias that shapes the sanctioning of messages.  And against this backdrop, we hear the cacophony of hypnotic academicians, advisors, politicians, pundits, and industrialists celebrating “knowledge”.

I recently lectured in Palo Alto.  The room was filled with the venture funded experts at the “cutting edge” of technology.  For three hours I described the consequence of incremental vs. fundamental innovation.  In simple biologic, physiologic and chemical terms, I described how they could integrate known, established, science to make disruptive impacts in their respective areas of work.  While I spoke, several individuals frantically sought to ‘google’ the concepts, terms, and research I was referencing commenting on how none of them were ‘trained’ to think in the wide-ranging scope of my talk.  From photosynthesis to membrane oligomerization; from Particle Swarm mathematics to lossless encryption; from genetics to social psychology…the range was extensive…and entirely necessary and effective.

“I think we need to rethink how we think,” was the comment articulated by one of the participants in the end.  “Nobody is thinking like this.”

“I hope you don’t think like me,” I responded.  “I just hope you think.”

Walter Powell wrote that, “the key component of the knowledge economy is a greater reliance on intellectual capabilities than on physical inputs or natural resources,” in The Annual Review of Sociology in 2004.  In 1969, Drucker polarized labor into those who work with their hands or the heads.  And herein lies the fallacy upon which the propaganda is built.  For “knowledge” to enable an economy, it cannot be the curation of the observations and recitations of others.  Rather it must be the synthesis of cognitive acuity, analog practice, and a fundamental curiosity born not of consumer expedience but rather from qualitative examination of conscious existence.  In other words, if the ‘problem’ is what you’re ‘solving’ than you’re contributing to a Propaganda Economy.  Because in a genuine Knowledge Economy, we’re arranging matter and energy to optimize existence – not “solving problems” born of myopic perspective shaped by myths, mantras, and media. 

Returning to Everett Martin one more time – his genuine admonition to work towards adult education which would outpace (and hold in check) technological development is one that bears consideration.  The notion that by our second decade we have acquired all the “education” we need to function in society supports the crowd thinking against which he unsuccessfully warned.  It’s time that we enter into continuous education.  And start it by turning off your computer, your iPhone, or your electronic device and read something written before 1945.  See if you could learn a thing or two from knowledge before it was so economically hijacked!

x

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Don’t Let Your Sight Indict My Blindness

0 comments


You probably never heard of Michael Servetus.  That’s fine because he was a heretic and was burned at the stake atop a pile of his own books – and green wood – under the orders of John Calvin on October 27, 1553.  And thank god for that.  Because if you describe yourself as a “Christian” today, Calvin’s accommodation of Catholic dogma kept doctrinal coherence to the “faith” that silly Michael sought to hold accountable to its own sacred texts.  The notion that the statement in John 1:14 – “…the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” implied that Jesus came from God and was therefore not a temporal co-equal in the illusion of the Trinity was so dangerous that the thinker had to be executed.  Never mind the fact he was the first physician to correctly understand the role of the heart, blood and lungs in keeping the human body alive.  Forget his contribution to astronomy by calculating the occultation of Mars by the Moon.  He questioned a 1,200-year-old dogmatic illusion.  He must die!

Newton to Aristotle and Descartes; Galileo to Pope Urban VIII; Copernicus to Ptolemy; Alexander Winton to horses and carriages; what is it about “belief” that is dependent on extermination of observation?  It’s one thing to hold oppositional perspective.  Two observers of the same fact, pattern, occurrence or phenomenon may process the “same” observation differently.  This interaction can enrich knowledge by the plurality of perspective.  That is in stark contrast to observation held in opposition to unquestioned (or unquestionable) dogma, consensus inertia, or “belief”.  Far from enriching knowledge, this begets an existential crisis and provokes the impulse to exterminate the heretic.

An editorial note: these observations are just that – observations.  I don’t make them because “I’m right”.  I make them because they’re a perspective I have. 

Over the past 25 years, I’ve been immersed in the world of intellectual property while living here in Charlottesville Virginia – home of Thomas Jefferson.  In his letter in 1813 to Isaac McPherson, Jefferson famously wrote of the patent system…:

“Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property. Society may give an exclusive right to the profits arising from them, as an encouragement to men to pursue ideas which may produce utility, but this may or may not be done, according to the will and convenience of the society, without claim or complaint from anybody.”

The pursuit of “ideas which may produce utility” was a laudable aspiration.  But Jefferson never imagined a world in which German patent reparations taken by the U.S. at the end of World War II under Operation Paperclip would be used in the Cold War in areas ranging from rockets and missiles, to industrial chemicals, to medicine, to physics and mathematics.  He never imagined “Jack” Mullin would reverse engineer and appropriate (steal) the ferromagnetic tape (invented by Danish engineer Valdemar Poulsen in 1898 and perfected by the Third Reich in the late 1920s) upon which the digital revolution would be born.  And he certainly never imagined the collusion that President Ronald Reagan would enable – under the direction of Gerald Mossinghoff – between the patent granting process and industries desperate to obtain more patents faster to counter the growing innovation “threat” from Japan.  Collusion is a strong word but let’s examine the facts.  To lubricate the fabrication of faux “invention”, Congress authorized the United States Patent and Trademark Office to levy “user fees” which the Office would retain if it reduced the pendency of patents and increased its issuance of claims of invention.  And he certainly would have been appalled by 1985 President’s Commission On Industrial Competitiveness which suggested that Cold War deterrent by patent number (as opposed to quality) would be the solution to a growing competition from Asia.

Into Reagan’s world came the ecclesiastical council of Bronwyn Hall, Adam Jaffe, and Manuel Trajtenberg working sub rosa with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).  While their work was far from a secret, their bias was.  Drawing data from patents issued between 1963 to 1999, they would become to innovation econometrics what Luther and Calvin were to the Reformation.  And it’s their opening assumptions that are both false and the basis for generalized error.

They recite that: 1) patents contain detailed information about “the innovation itself”; 2) they are sought for a monopoly incentive; and, 3) citations are a proxy for acclaim or “importance”.  Referencing the 1981 NBER work of Jerry Hausman, Bronwyn Hall and Zvi Griliches (though ignoring the uncomfortable weak correlations between research and development and patenting activity that they reported), these researchers instituted an econometric doctrine of “counting” patents as an indicator of inventive or innovative effort.  From that time until the present, academicians and economists have been blinded to the numeric glaucoma of the 1950s (did the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. have more Germans?) that begot the qualitative blindness rendered complete in 1981 (can we build a database to justify our desire to “out-invent” Japan by patent numbers?). 

For a moment, consider the published work of Deepak Somaya from the University of Illinois.  In his 2012 paper in the Journal of Management entitled “Patent Strategy and Management: An Integrative Review and Research Agenda”, he describes the motivations for patenting far afield from Jefferson’s market compromise.  And while the mountain of evidence at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the Patent Trial Appeals Board continues to grow showing that granted patents are more often than not found to be in error when challenged, neither academicians nor economists are willing to consider that the artifact of a patent does not represent “invention” or “innovation”.

“The motivations of firms in obtaining patents provide considerable insight into the potential strategic uses of patents. Among the many reasons for patenting described in prior work are blocking (defensive and offensive), preventing copying, building fences and thickets, earning licensing income, avoiding litigation by others, use in negotiation and exchange, motivating and rewarding R&D personnel, measuring performance, attracting investors, and building image and reputation (Blind, Edler, Frietsch, & Schmoch, 2006; Blind et al., 2009; Cohen et al., 2000; Cohen, Goto, Nagata, Nelson, & Walsh, 2002; Duguet & Kabla, 1998). Research has also shown that different firm-level strategic motives predict characteristics of the firm’s patents as well as reactions from rival firms to these patents (e.g., filing oppositions) (Blind et al., 2009).”

Where is the consideration of patents representing laborious inquiry, genius, and invention?  Tragically, nowhere to be found!  So much for assumptions 1 & 2 of the catechism.  Not surprisingly, the third assumption that suggests that “citation” means you’ve been celebrated for your contribution is an error of academicians who seek tenure rather than reading patent law.  In the ivory towers of academic research, citation means someone recognizes you.  In contrast, in the world of patents, citation means that you are rendered irrelevant or surpassed by the “state-of-the-art”.  Each citation removes an option by a determination of “patentable distinction”.  The more cited a patent is, the more its range of market control options are limited!   This isn’t tenure, it’s competitive market restriction!  It is worth noting that, in academic research, being cited doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being celebrated.  Good research includes the challenging of previous work.  But don’t tell citation counters that unfortunate detail.  To be found – in their univariate world – is to be celebrated.  Not true in science; definitely not the case in patents.

And herein lies the problem.  To get funded research in the field of econometrics around innovation, one seems to be compelled to turn a blind eye towards the dubious selective relevance of NBER data; the fallacious conclusions drawn from the work of researchers who themselves didn’t check their assumptions; and, rationalize data to ignore the ground truth that, since 1981, patenting has been more about the mutual assured destruction doctrine built on missile silos of expensive litigation and costs of enforcement rather than on genuine innovation.  No wonder that Apple and Samsung were fighting over who “invented” the rectangle and who controls the movement of fingers across a screen.  Ah, poor Thomas Jefferson!

Around 80 AD, the Roman poet Martial may have coined the term “plagiarius” to describe the seduction and expropriation of things.  In the 17th century, the term became more explicitly part of literary parlance.  And in 1993, IBM started developing machine intelligence to detect plagiarism in text and code.  Not surprisingly, the cunning use of thesaurus and word substitution became inextricably part and parcel of patent filers in the 1980s.  The more convoluted the term “could” be, the more interpretation might be afforded to what wasn’t actually invented.  The courts concluded that a patent applicant could be “their own lexicographer” meaning that “meaning” didn’t “mean” what it “meant”.  Against that backdrop – to say nothing of the profit motives for granting and maintaining a plethora of “strategic” patents in the US, Europe and Asia – is it any wonder that we’re awash in patents?  Let’s see: if a printer was paid to print counterfeit $20 bills, might he print many?  So too, a patent office paid to issue and receive maintenance fees for the preservation of prolific (and dubious) patents may have an incentive to, that’s right, issue patents.  Precisely what they’ve been doing for four decades.

But are we prepared to measure quality rather than quantity?  Well so far, no.  While industry left the Constitutional intent of patenting activity nearly 40 years ago by turning patents into competitive deterrents rather than celebrations of ground-breaking invention, compliant researchers found the existence of a data artifact in the form of patents to be the only thing that was countable so, guess what, they counted them.  In 2001, when I first applied machine intelligence to the question of plagiarism in patents and reported in Congressional testimony that up to 1/3 were possibly at risk of being merely the product of thesaurus linguistics, did anyone take notice?  When Commerce Secretary Donald Evans began the drumbeat of Chinese IP theft while ignoring the rampant domestic evidence of innovation expropriation among competitors and within institutions (HP v Compaq; DuPont v Monsanto; Columbia University and its transgenic mouse; etc), did anyone ask if China was merely taking to scale abuses that were alive, well, and celebrated in the U.S. and Europe?  Are any market participants aware of the looming threat of machine intelligence applied to patents?  Not really.  And why?  For the simple reason that we’re still blindly reciting a counting game while the rest of the world calls the U.S. and European bluff.  Oh, and for the record, the Chinese aren’t “inventing” much.  They’re largely building jurisdictional thickets around the hedges that G-20 countries manicured for years.

In 2013, M·CAM started running an equity fund that measured the difference between companies that come up with new ideas and companies that merely expropriate the ideas of others.  We did this to prove the consequence of measuring what others ignored.  In 2015, that effort gave rise to the creation of the CNBC IQ100 powered by M·CAM.  During its publication period, the index out-performed the S&P500 around which it was inspired.  Now, we publish three indexes – Innovation a® United States (formerly the CNBC IQ100), Innovation a® Global, and the Martin Global Innovation Equity Trade War.  These indexes are based on a very simple premise:  if one genuinely contributes to ideas that build market opportunities, it is reasonable to expect that entity to ultimately perform better than those who merely copy the work of others.  And, as long as the Cold War mentality of patent counting prevails, I suspect our performance will be rewarded.  After all, if the smartest people in the room aren’t willing to ask the tough questions on the quality of that which they count, does counting count?

Which brings me back to the charred remains of our heretic.  Tragically, Michael asked the “wrong” question.  If the sacred text says, “In the beginning,” he puzzled, “doesn’t that mean ‘beginning’”?  And if in the beginning was the Word, and then the Word was made flesh, doesn’t that imply sequence?  And if there’s sequence, doesn’t that mean that the flesh and blood came after the Origin?  Alternatively, is the text misreporting the facts?  Servetus wasn’t demanding his position.  He was just saying that you can’t hold literal infallibility of text and the doctrine of the Trinity with credibility.  Pick a story.  Stick with it.  A great surge of our innovation policy was born of the Cold War.  Numeric deterrents mattered.  I don’t mind if we, as a society, decide to redefine patents from being temporary market incentives for genuine contributions to science and the useful arts (sorry for quoting the Constitution there) to being mine-fields of deterrents to disrupt those who would challenge incumbencies.  All I care about is that we pick a story and stick with it.  When the consensus illusion stands in the way of explicit observations, I’ve got a problem.  And with the emergence of “trade wars” justified by IP theft, there’s a lot burning at stake.  (Yes, I couldn’t miss the pun.  I’d say “I’m sorry” but I’d have to be my own lexicographer because I wouldn’t really mean “sorry”.)


x

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Optics of “Truth” – From Constantine to Einstein to FINRA

3 comments


One hundred years ago this month, a group of astronomers commenced their observational engineering in Sobral, Brazil to prepare for the Total Eclipse of the Sun of May 29, 1919.  Sir F.W. Dyson, FRS, Professor A.S. Eddington, FRS, and Mr. C. Davidson were intent on measuring the “Deflection of Light by the Sun’s Gravitational Field” in an effort to confirm Professor Einstein’s 1911 General Principle of Equivalence which would alter Newton’s “Law” of gravitation.  Enlisting astronomers, scholars, politicians, and clergy from three countries, their results, published in November of 1919, solidified the public’s canonization of Einstein and his world view.

Sixteen hundred ninety-four years ago on May 20, Emperor Constantine convened the ecumenical Council of Nicaea to resolve the official story of what would become “Christianity”.  In a gathering of astronomers, scholars, politicians, and clergy from three countries, he sought to quash deviant narratives that would call into question any version of “truth” other than his approved version.  Among the Council’s task was to resolve the three hundred-year-old questions of which version of accounts of the teachings of Jesus and the commentary of Apostles (notably Paul who ironically had no knowledge of Jesus or his teachings from experience) would be accepted and which were heresy.

Between May 20 and May 29, 2019 I’m engaging in an effort to shed light on an equally occult collection dogmatic beliefs – money.  And as I’m wont to do, I like to learn from successful propaganda campaigns throughout time to see how perspective is codified as “truth”.

I’m fortunate to have been born in a family that included an astronomer (my father) and a linguist (my mother).  While I can claim no expertise approximating either of their life-long learnings, my osmosis exposure to their worlds fueled my inquisition of the two seminal May events listed above.  Without the former, we would not have our current scientific framework and without the latter, we’d have one less reason to separate ourselves from each other based on cosmological and metaphysical dogma.  Ironically, both involved the quadrangulation of men of astronomical, political, scholarly, and ecclesiastical persuasion.

While I won’t do justice to the meticulous records of both events (which I commend to your reading), I found interesting resonance in these two events.
  • 1.      A priori Singular Assumption Supremacy:  In the solar eclipse experiment, scientists postulated that during a total eclipse of the sun, the visible light from stars near the sun would deviate in its path in a manner that would be perceptibly different from the same light from the same stars without the solar mass influencing its passage.  By observing the photographic plates of the exact same stars without the eclipsed sun and those same stars during the eclipse, deviation of light in the X-Y coordinates “should” be quantifiable.  In the Council’s case, the assumption was that hand-scribed copies of texts over a three-hundred-year period across at least three language translations would contain an inerrant consistency.  The gathered scholars would be able, when assembled, to confirm truth by comparing all variations and settling on the negotiated deviation which would constitute the “authentic”.  In both cases affording one variable the capacity to arbitrate all other considered and unconsidered postulates, extrapolated consequence hung on a single argument.
  • 2.      Dismissal of Dissent:  Considerable treatment is given to the optics of the telescopes and lenses used in the solar experiment.  From the nature of mirrors to the precision of lenses to the photographic plates, going into the observation, the scientists knew that their instruments would produce error.  The Oxford and Principe observations demonstrated inconsistencies in the lead up to the eclipse.  Further, while care was taken to consider meteorological conditions, variations for atmospheric differences in the upper atmosphere were unconsidered.  Never mind, the assumption was that, on the day, the standard deviation of the reference would be treated as static and serve as the basis for comparison of true deviation.  Similarly at Nicaea, the known error was the notion of a unitarian divinity (the notion that the Father and Son are co-equal in all respects).  The Arian Controversy had caused a power dispute between Alexandria and Constantinople and (I know this is going to come as a surprise) the Roman emperor wanted his perspective to prevail.  So the triune nature of the godhead became the lens through which everything was filtered.  Oh, and if you didn’t agree, no worries, your perspective was considered…. Oh, no, you were banished and labeled heretic, excommunicated or subject to the sword.
  • 3.      Selectively Objective:  Going into the solar observation, 13 candidate stars were selected for their photographic magnitude (the sufficiency of light to expose to plates) and their proximity to the sun.  Great lengths were taken to explain the rationale for only 7 (61%) being used to confirm the study findings.  While the records of the Council of Nicaea are a bit clouded on the point, it appears that about 78% of the candidate “books of the Bible” (which were not officially concluded in the “canon” until the Council of Rome in 382) were considered as definitive while the remaining set that didn’t substantiate the a priori doctrine were excluded.  In short, in both cases, only that light which confirmed the hypothesis was considered.  All of the rest was rejected.
  • 4.      Infallibility of Consequence:  When the findings of the light experiment were published in November of 1919, the consequence was the effective elevation of Einstein to detriment of Newton.  When the Council of Nicaea arrived at the outcome that was pre-ordained by its convening monarch, Rome and Constantinople were elevated and the Arians were excommunicated.


It was with great interest that I performed a few calculations on the Principe 4” lens plates – the ones that “proved” Einstein’s theory.  One would consider that, if the gravitational effect of the sun was to deflect light, that deflection would be equally altered by: 1) proximity of the sun to the starlight; and, 2) the x-y coordinate shift observed in both right ascension (“longitude”) and declination (“latitude”).  Unfortunately, the calculated deflection (based on Einstein’s theory) and the observed deflection don’t meet either of these presumptions.  The correlation between solar distance and the observed change in right ascension is 0.4 while the effect in declination is 0.36.  In other words, even in the instances of the selected objective, the “effect” wasn’t the reported effect.  Similarly, when one considers only the over 5,000 Greek, 10,000 Latin, and over 9,000 other texts of the canon from 382 until Erasmus’ work in the early 16th century including parchments, fragments, and other copies reproduced by scribes who may or may not have had any experience with the images of the letters they were copying, the textual agreement is somewhere around 40% as well.  This statistic is derived from a simple compound error calculation between literal translation precision, penmanship and reproductive accuracy, to say nothing for the disputed content between the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus which were resolved based on dogma – not literal archaeological evidence.  Ironically “error” exceeds “consistency” in each of these examples.  While the masses are told of “truth” and “laws”, it is heresy to review the inherent error in the “ground truth.”

So whether, on this Sunday, you venerate a divine composite of mysteries, metaphors, myths, and messiahs or whether you are so “enlightened” as to venerate mathematics, mechanics, metrics, and measurable, our collective paradox is that the assumptions upon which both stand are exactly that – assumptions.

For the last four weeks, I’ve been in communications with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) about what is and is not authorized in communications regarding some of our commercial business.  For those unfamiliar with FINRA, their job is to insure that investors receive fair and complete information upon which to make decisions.  FINRA has copious rules upon which they opine to attempt to certify compliance.  However, FINRA never has had to deal with a business like ours.  We have done a number of novel things – quantifying the effect of intangible assets (things that are not recorded on corporate balance sheets) for banks, businesses, governments and investors.  And it turns out that while we have measured many things with a precision not afforded by any other metric, FINRA only has room in its world for things that “fit” their template.  In their effort to achieve “compliance”, they have mandated that we alter or eliminate historical material to make our presence less disruptive.  That’s right, FINRA has explicitly sought to manipulate full, complete, and accurate information rather than adjusting their optics to account for something that challenges the consensus hypothesis.  What’s worse, with a recently completed business partnership with another not-for-profit government recognized organization, we’ve been advised that we may not be able to report the nature and substance of a reality that the whole world will be able to see on a daily basis and associate it to investors’ decision-making information.

In short, FINRA’s actions – like those of Constantine, Erasmus, James I, Eddington, Dyson and Davidson – evidence the operating definition of “truth”.  They define it simply as that which confirms catechisms held by controlling consensus.  If it preserves ideology and the hierarchy dependent on manipulating the masses, it’s “true”.  If it challenges this status quo and disrupts occult power and influence, it’s heresy.

So what can we learn from the 4 Propaganda Pillars?  Well, the answer is simple.  Start by questioning ALL assumptions.  Is it likely that a deity would insist on the penmanship of scribes across three languages and two millennia to convey an oral wisdom and lived experience?  Is it likely that an geocentric observation which takes into account none of the earth’s magnetic, meteorologic, or other effects to say nothing of the unknown kinetics in multiple dimensions that may describe light emitters both near and far forms a universal “law”?  Is it likely that a government agency under the thumb of financial interests will want independent data that competes with incumbent interests represented as true, fair, and balanced?  Of course not.  Second, encourage dissent.  Welcome those who innocently inquire together with those in vehement opposition.  Encourage each party to come to the table with their own insights and welcome discord that remains unresolved yet respectful.  Third, acknowledge subjectivity.  In the case of our business, we explicitly publish our methodology and approach.  We’re not saying it’s “right”.  We’re simply stating our perspective.  And in our case, we’re applying that perspective to information that is public but is unused by financial institutions and regulators.  So we’re even telling people where and how to look at something that is not commonly seen.  And finally, engage with arrogant humility.  What I mean by this is simple.  What we do represents decades of research and scholarship.  The perspective we have is based on ample consideration.  Therefore, the views we share with the world are correctly OUR VIEW.  That DOESN’T MAKE IT RIGHT!  It just makes it us.

Who knows?  With an approach that doesn’t require swords, cruelty, division, and harm, maybe we can form a more profitable union!

VIa/W


Monday, December 31, 2018

Of Great Hunters and the Game

1 comments
Eighteen years ago today, I was sitting at a much larger computer terminal on New Year’s Eve frantically corresponding with a Managing Director at Banc of America Securities in Palo Alto, California.  Three hours behind me, it mattered little to him that the first New Years of the new millennium would be spent with me negotiating a credit agreement to provide capital to my company to cover the bank’s own reneging on its capital and business commitment weeks earlier.  After all, my midnight would pass and he’d still have three hours before the champagne corks would be launched.  And on that night, I made a promise.  For as long as I ran M·CAM, my last act on the last day of each year would be to write an homage of gratitude to those who, in the preceding year, had made my year wonderful.  I think of this the Incarnation of Gratitude Litany.

As if to test my resolve, my morning this morning included an invitation to be lured back to the table of re-trading against myself and my values.  The difference between now and 18 years ago is a simple one.  It came in my understanding of a moral riddle given to me in the Golden Pagoda (Kinkaku-ji) in Kyoto long ago. 

Impassioned to convey sage wisdom into my life, an aged monk grabbed onto my coat and motioned for me to sit beside him.

“Turn the bamboo for your omikuji,” he said handing me a large bamboo section with a small hole drilled in one side.

I rolled the bamboo and, after a few seconds, turned it to one side allowing a strand of wood to slip out of the hole.  On the strip was a series of kanji characters.  Handing it to the monk, I watched as he took it and melted into an expression of sheer amazement.

“Ah, this omikuji hasn’t been drawn before.  It is very special,” he said as he shuffled over to a wall of tiny cubby holes each containing a miniature scroll.  “We’ve heard about this scroll but I’ve never seen it.  You must listen very carefully as what I have to tell you is very important.”

I sat as he relayed the following story.

A great hunter always provided food for his village.  When he would enter the forest, he would find deer, rabbits or birds, shoot them with his arrows or catch them in his snares and bring them back to the village so that all were provisioned.   In the forest, there was a line.  Before that line, hunting big game was appropriate as it could be carried back to the village without any concern of exhaustion.  Beyond the line, the hunter should only pursue small game as dragging a deer back would require too much effort and, as such, neither he nor the village would benefit.  He and his village thrived.  Then one day, he went into the forest to hunt.  Deep in the forest, he had seen nothing.  No tracks in the snow; no hide, hair, or feather.  And then, standing on the line of demarcation he saw them: a deer and a rabbit.

“You know what to do,” the monk exclaimed.  “You’re the great hunter.”

“What’s the punchline?” I inquired.  “How does this end?”

“Right,” he replied, “You know!”

2018 taught me that I misunderstood hunting as a pursuit.  The reason for my struggle with the omikuji was up until this year, I thought that the hunter had the next move.  His wit, his cunning, his aim, his strength.  But what I learned in 2018 was that the deer and the rabbit were not prey.  They were not provision.  They were seduction into the reflexive illusion of “choice”.  Was the hunter going to be trapped into expending every last bit of energy to haul the deer back?  Was the hunter going to start collecting rabbits and birds for their portability?  Was the hunter going to be wise enough to invite either the deer or the rabbit (and any other woodland creature, for that matter) to follow him back to the village?  Was the hunter wise enough to turn away from the hunt and teach the village to become self-sufficient?  Was the hunter thoughtful enough to realize that he wasn’t provisioning but rather enabling dependency?

So, in keeping with my year end tradition, I honor and celebrate my dear friends Bob Kendall and Amanda Gore who stood with me once more as steadfast, intrepid allies in my mission.  I honor Cody Lloyd for giving me a father’s joy on January 15 of this year when he sent me a letter I will cherish for the rest of my life in which he informed me of his abiding love and passion for my daughter Katie.  I honor my son Zachary for his embrace of living that involved joining the team at M·CAM.  I honor Nicolas Wales for his relentless pace climbing actual and metaphoric hills and inspiring the same in me.  I honor Dex Wheeler, Pam Cole and Dylan Korelich who struggled mightily across the year to help the entire team at M·CAM thrive and achieve unimaginable successes.  I honor community that has formed around the Breathing Enterprise’s Gatherings and the persistent value of family that they have manifest in my life.  I honor my beautiful wife Kim for her persistent, generative passion.  But in this end of 2018, I will, for the first time honor one more person.  Someone who has never featured in any of my gratitude posts over nearly 20 years.  As the sun sets on 2018, I honor my resolute passion to be the very best of humanity!  I honor my unflagging generosity and loyalty.  In short, I honor me.  I’m grateful to finally sit, puzzle solved, and watch the deer and the rabbit make THEIR next move.


x

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

And Then?

0 comments
I wrote the following 33 years ago...fitting for a day of collapsing confidence in the markets...

The sun rose.  Rising ever so slowly yet rising nonetheless.  As it made its ascent into the vast blue expanse overhead, shadows of dawn were transformed into fully illuminated objects of the day.  All was very quiet, as silent as undersea chasms into which the light of dawn never penetrates.  Nothing moved. All was perfectly tranquil.

Projecting from the rubble below, a network of iron beams - twisted, mangled, and rusted, reached upward as a tree stretches its gnarled limbs from a fissure in the bedrock.  Fragments of glass flashed in the fresh new light.  On the ground, a mixture of steel, glass, plaster, concrete, and asphalt combined to form a landscape never observed before.

The sun rose higher.  The higher it climbed, the warmer the air became.  Still nothing moved.

A bridge support stood in the desolation, land that once bustled with activity.  The bridge, both a functional superstructure and a monument to a concept that those who created the structure  never totally understood, was annihilated, reduced to mere powder.

The sun continued its ascent.

Towering above the bleakness stood geometrically symmetric metal skeletons; wires draped from them like wild grapevines dangling from bare trees in the dead of winter.  Once laden with surges of power, giving vibrancy to their designers, now they hung - powerless - in this realm of desolation.

The sun reached its zenith, thoroughly permeating the silent surroundings.

Partially submerged, yet still conspicuously there, was an enormous metal formation in the shape of a pointed ellipse.  Lying on the floor of an inlet, this colossus was sheltered from all the dangers of the open sea. Chains bound it to proportionately minute supports on land - the chains still insuring against any unwanted movement.  Atop this immense construction, two long narrow tubes pointed menacingly at the sky - daring anything to intrude into this silent, seemingly forbidden territory.  

The sun began its descent.

A spire rose upward, splitting the air.  Upon the pinnacle stood a simple, strikingly prominent figure - an upright bar intersected by a horizontal bar - a cross.  This figure cast an endless shadow across the desolation.  Once this had been a solid firm construction - now fleeting.

The sun sank lower in the sky.

A causeway was clearly delineated on the ground.  This, combined with many other such causeways, converged at one point.  At this point stood a stone.  Along the road stood forsaken buildings once bustling with international commerce; houses empty shells, silent as the stones from and trees from which they were constructed; vehicles, once transporting their owners from one place to another in a seemingly endless cycle.

The sun set casting an orange red hue on the giant stone at the roads' convergence. Upon this stone, a simple inscription read:

"To Whom It May Concern, We Were"

x

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Happy Twentieth Birthday M·CAM

0 comments


Today marks the 20th anniversary of the incorporation of M·CAM – the world’s first and only intangible asset qualitative and quantitative underwriter and trader.  At its inception earlier in 1998, the concept of rendering the “intangible” tangible through the marriage of big data and qualitative market algorithms was revolutionary.  Formed the same year that Google was launched, M·CAM’s steady progress towards reforming the manner in which markets measure intangible effects has spanned the globe and left an indelible mark on the capital markets.  Two years ago, M·CAM’s success was memorialized with the launch of the CNBC IQ100 powered by M·CAM – the world’s leading equity index.

There’s no question that our success is due, in large part, to the amazing contribution of the 103 community members who have been part of our company for a time across two decades.  We’ve provided investment returns for many active investors throughout our operation.  And we’ve impacted global markets and government regulators with unprecedented contributions to advancing transparency and accountability.

But on today’s momentous anniversary, there are a few unlikely individuals and organizations that I wish to acknowledge for their contribution to our long march to this moment.

M·CAM’s first credible external investor – Ned Goldstein – transformed our start-up into an enterprise that attracted national attention.  Ms. Fengming Lu opened the State Council of China to us as China was commencing its accession into the World Trade Organization.  And Dr. Pieter Fourie made South Africa our first commercial endeavor at a time when the nascent technology markets were merely whispers in Africa.

M·CAM’s first remarkable public recognition came from Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology and Terry Woodworth who awarded us the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first Innovation Grant for a fintech company in January 1999.  This award put a spotlight on our work at a time when financial engineering was largely relegated to academic institutions.

As he was leaving his post as President Clinton’s Comptroller of Currency for the United States, Eugene Ludwig took time to open up many doors to regulators and government agencies which ultimately included the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), the FDIC, and other important relationships upon which M·CAM built a reputation of incomparable collaboration and success.

SwissRe’s William Hoffman was the first commercial partner to take a reputational and business risk in our early days.  His long days and nights in Zurich led to our first appearance in the Wall Street Journal announcing our partnership in 2000.  Together with the team at Banc of America Securities, SwissRe put M·CAM on the global stage in September 2000.

Bank of New York’s investment research program, coordinated by John Meserve introduced investors to M·CAM’s market research through its Jaywalk and ConvergEx platforms.  In a world where sell-side research was a dime-a-dozen, the Jaywalk team went out on a limb to promote the importance of our work.

Congressman Robert Goodlatte (R-VA) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) put the power of the United States Congress behind our efforts with the U.S. Commerce Department, the United States Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service.

Professor Anil Gupta and the team at the Indian Institute for Management – Ahmedabad and the SRISTI and HoneyBee networks proliferated our Global Innovation Commons work around the world.

Theresa Arek and Alise Stunnenberg took my involvement with the World Bank and brought it to a world of communities that gave rise to the Heritable Innovation Trust and our engagement in landowner rights across the globe.

Alistair Nolan – policy analyst at the OECD – and Carol Corrado – senior advisor at The Conference Board – brought the weight of their academic research to our analytic services offerings.  Together with Tony Clayton – chief economist at the UK Patent Office – and Alan Marco – chief economist at the U.S. Patent Office, the merger of industry and academic expertise drawing on M·CAM’s methodology further solidified our gold-standard collaboration credentials.

Nick Drake, Dan Goldstein, and Jimmy Smith – during their common tenure at TBWA\Chiat\Day did their best to make us cool – nice try guys!

And then there’s the trinity of extraordinary gentlemen – Mr. Joe O’Shea, Mr. Chet Nagle, and Mr. Bob Kendall – who added their wisdom to our navigating the most arduous of challenges and who, when all horizons appeared to be shrouded in impenetrable fogs – kept watch with me and offered the encouragement that kept a steady hand on the helm. 

If you’re reading this post, odds are that you’re also one of the amazing lights that have marked the path to this moment.  For each and every contribution to our collective success, I’m deeply grateful.  And as we consider the coming months and years, my commitment remains to honor all those who stood with me!  As with any success, it is not merely the hand that steers the ship but it’s the conspiracy of hands, winds and waves that makes the journey an epic voyage.  I honor each of you.


x

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Living a Lie

1 comments


I’m sure you’re with me in the persistence of your rapt fascination with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) measurement of gravitational waves measured in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington and the 1.5-billion-year-old black hole collision from which they originated.  Even more so, I’m sure you sleep better at night knowing that nature (yes, that same thing that allegedly created a cataclysmic shock wave 1.5 billion years ago) obeys the theory proposed by Einstein on general relativity.  Thank heavens.  After all, how disappointed would we all be if we found out that our myopic projection onto nature didn’t follow “our rules”?  Thankfully, the Nobel Committee awarded med/tals to three researchers – Barry Barish, Kip Thorne, and Rainier Weiss – which in the medal’s own atomic composition were the product of the theoretical genesis of the very gold from which their medal was struck!  Au79 – aka gold – is supposedly born of stellar events incapable of being replicated at scale on Earth.  I’m sure you chuckled with the irony that the medal was from metal derived of a cosmic event resulting in the precipitation of gold that was derived from an equally improbable theoretical framework of cosmic proportions to the discovery for which the medal was awarded.

In the months following the measurement of the first gravitational wave, there’s been a plethora of confirmatory measurements.  Imagine that!  We go 1.5 billion years without a ripple and then, boom, waves are popping out all over like acne on a 13-year-old version of my face!  And as we take this step closer to answering the existential question of why matter exists and how it came into being – something that I know keeps me up at night – we’re a few billion dollars and a few years away from confirming Fritz Zwicky’s 1933 postulation of “dark matter” that makes up most of… well, pretty much everything.  And if you’re like me, you can’t wait until 2022 when we finally power up the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile when we get to learn when to set our Mayan calendars for the “Big Rip” which is when the universe is torn asunder by the accelerating pace of the expansion of the universe and all its “dark matter”.

I had the privilege of reading Julius Pretterebner’s The Unifed Theory – Electricity, Magnetism, Gravity, and Mechanics which seeks to unravel the hidden structure of Maxwell’s equations in pursuit of a rational Unified Theory.  I had an interest in this as I’m continuing to entertain myself with the “consciousness” and “discernment” evidenced in playing with magnets and iron filings.  Weaving a tapestry of Newton, Lorenz, Kepler, Faraday, Helmholz, and others, Julius takes us on the journey from geometry to kinetics in a flurry of formulae worthy of Jackson Pollack unleashed with a paint bucket and a blank canvas at the MoMA.  What I find fascinating in the blinding Greek characters is the persistence of separation – distance, time, vacuum, and direction all in the quest to find what makes it all stick together.

Over the years, I’ve encountered people seeking to end relationships, rationalize grief, or justify callous neglect who utter the fatalist epitaph, “I must have been living a lie.”  This refrain of the hard-done-by is the unconsidered product of an illusion projected onto reality lubricated generously by therapists who prey on the wallets of those who seek solace and justification to assuage pain receptors symptomatically triggered by an absence of personal culpability and accountability.  Understanding “WHY” is attempted to be resolved: by becoming remote from the supposed ‘cause’ (distance); after a situation has become irreconcilably destroyed (time); in complete absence of personal responsibility or self-awareness (vacuum); and, with a notion of finitude that must be reified to support a socially sympathetic narrative (direction).  Like colliding black holes, neutron stars, and dark matter, our capacity to apprehend in hindsight the copious and persistent neglect we had for the present addicts us to telling the “WHY” story using variables that science conveniently offers us as “laws” and “unified theories”.

A simple journey through Wikipedia will be helpful for those who don’t read the footnotes of chemistry, physics, and mathematics journals.  Matter, is made up of electromagnetically charged particles.  For convenience, we’ll stick to the generally accepted atomic model of protons, neutrons, and electrons.  The guts of matter (the nuclear core of atoms) is made up of things that don’t seem to totally compute.  Allegedly neutrons beget protons and around this nuclear core, negatively charged electrons orbit in various energy states.  Based on the number of spinning electrons, multiple atoms can bind to form molecules, molecules organize to beget stuff and, presto! We’ve got stuff!  Neutrons are born of stellar formation and destruction.  Our theoretical models have a ticklish problem in that neutrons are supposed to decay pretty quickly – in the matter of a few minutes.  Now hit pause on that thought for a quick reality check.

I’m writing this blog post from 38,000ft above the Pacific Ocean in an aircraft made of aluminum.  How is it, precisely, that neutrons from deep space keep ‘showing up’ in aluminum form to keep this plane in the air?  And how is it that the carbon, phosphate, sodium, potassium, and chlorine which currently allow my fingers to keep typing on my keyboard keep persisting in their form when the average neutron hangs around for less than 15 minutes?  Am I sitting less than 15 minutes away from a supernova, a black hole, or a neutron emitting energy source?  If I was, wouldn’t I be incinerated?

Julius points out the uncomfortable math problem that Kepler eluded to and Newton calculated when they described the Earth’s elliptical orbit of the Sun.  ‘Separate points in space’ don’t exist as physically isolated actors.  While we want to make everything fit into lines-between-points models, that very model is broken in its opening assumption.  Everything is in motion and unlike our mathematical simplistic assumptions is not seeking ‘normal distributions’ or ‘homeostatic balance’.  When one passes a magnet over iron filings, some of the iron filings respond and some don’t.  Pass the same or a different magnet over the ‘unresponsive’ filings and their response changes.  How is it that when presented with a field, some particles respond and some don’t?  How is it that the exact same experimental conditions applied exactly the same way a second time leads to a different response?  Is the iron filing that doesn’t jump in the first instance “living a lie” as some alternative nonferrous substance or is it the case that the field in which its experience the present moment simply not eliciting a response as presented?

One of the most romanticized separation illusions is the inadequately characterized notion relationship loss.  In a recent conversation I had about the concept of grief I suggested that the emotional notion of grief could benefit from re-examination.  In the conversation, I recounted the over 30 years I’ve lived with excruciating pain in my legs following a tremendous accident and multiple ensuing reconstructive surgeries.  Reflexively, I have been bombarded with three decades of the question, Why?  Why do you have to suffer pain every day?  And I join the millions who are sympathetically patronized with Why.  Why did he get cancer?  Why did my child die?  Why did my marriage end?  Why was I abused?  Why, why, why?  And what I’ve come to recognize is that WHY is merely the pretext for symptomatic relief – not for fruitful living!  Oh, you poor dear, you’re in pain… I’ve got an opioid for that.  Oh, you poor dear, you neglected your relationship… I’ve got a therapist who can help you blame someone.  Oh, you poor dear, your loved one died… you can disengage living your life in homage to…WHAT!!!???  Like our billion dollar quest to find out the WHY of the Universe, we play out in miniature the same madness in our own social orbits.  Substance abuse, surrogacy and dependency on prostituted empathy, escape and isolation, reclusiveness all mark the profitable trail of a Unified Theory of disunity.

“What would happen,” I inquired, “if we reconstituted GRIEF into a Gratitude Reminder In Emotional Form?”  Rather than seeing the distance, time, vacuum, and directional illusions that we project, what if we used the dark energy of emotion to animate in impulse of gratitude?

Life spoiler alert!  Around 2033 when we read the news out of Chile that at long last we’ve seen and measured ‘dark energy’ and we confirm that in a few more billion years it’s going to complete the Big Bang cycle by rending our universe asunder, we will have learned nothing.  As long as we chase a non-present projection of an illusory construct on each of our todays so as to render them somehow defective in favor of an ideal condition which we couldn’t imagine given our space-time limited fantasies, we’ll continue in missing what’s in front of us in the moment.

Which brings me to the point.  WHAT’S THE POINT OF LIFE?

Well, thanks for asking.  I’m pretty sure the answer is, there is none.  If by life you mean judging the present as inadequate; obsessing about a linear future as something to which one aspires; a rejection of present relationships for your enculturated definition of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’; and, a determination that through passive aggressive isolation or outright cruelty a judgement will be rendered on the wrongdoer, well then, it’s pointless.

But if we golf clap for the Nobel Prize committee and then go about emancipating ourselves from the illusion of separation, we can:

Realize that one person’s pain is a sensation to heighten our own experience of and gratitude for what is whole and properly functioning;

Realize that one person’s ‘loss’ is an invitation for deepening cherished connections and reinvigorating the social, material, and energetic networks that sustain us;

Recognize that in our unfiltered expression of insights and wisdom, we’re merely resolving for ourselves and others resonant chords which can remind and stimulate wisdom in others; and,

Celebrate that each moment is entangled with all other moments in all other dimensions and thoughtfully engage our field effect in our awareness so as to bend and accommodate the field effects in the experience of others in positive manners.

In short, while my life and your life may have no purpose in isolation, our purposeful living appears to  shape the field of reality and, in so doing makes an indelible mark in the ever present NOW.  No stories; no justifications; no excuses – No Lies.


x