Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mathematics and Magicians, the Rant Continues

An old friend of mine just wrote in reply my Mathematics and Magicians post yesterday. He couldn’t post his comments directly to the blog site, so he emailed them to me. With his permission, I present it to you here in full (I did add the first two links for reference):

Hey Dan

I read one of your blog entries, and I got so worked up that I furiously banged out a reply. Then the silly thing wouldn't let me post it, probably because it was too long. So I'll just email it to you. You can ignore it or delete it or post it yourself....but at least I will have had my say! And for the record, I'm griping with the
author you cite, not you...so we're on the same side.

Here's my reply to your entry "
Magicians and Mathematicians":

Having worked in the financial arena for about 15 years now, I'm here to tell you that the term "human side of finance" is as big of an oxymoron as "sanitary landfill" or "military intelligence" or "compassionate conservative". If you want that touchy-feely crap, go down the hall to HR and cry them a river. The finance people have work to do, thank you very much.

All businesses which are traded in the public markets exist for one purpose: the pursuit of profit for shareholders. How the "quants" apply their profit mandate to their daily tasks is merely a matter of corporate policy. It's shockingly naive to assume that anyone in a financial capacity would ever "appreciate...the unintended consequences" of their individual actions or even give a hoot for that matter.

Sounds like a bunch of academic rubbish to me. It would also be foolish to subscribe to the notion that this is a relatively new phenomenon (ref. the managers with history degrees – as if to say “back in the good old days”). The Spanish conquistadors directly or indirectly caused the deaths of millions in the pursuit of profit (unbridled imperialism). The Bolsheviks made a naked power grab in the early 20th century and wreaked 70 years of financial, ecological, and social havoc, all under the pretense of making a better life for the masses (rampant socialism/communism). Wall Street capitalists speculated themselves into quite a mess in 1929 (runaway capitalism).

Greed is an intrinsic part of human nature, and unfortunately greed is also part of the group mentality of "quants" which are otherwise known as "people". It seems the article's author is the one who has lost his "human side".

P.S. I resent being identified as a mere "quant", which sounds suspiciously like “quantum”, especially since the definition of THAT word would be even more dehumanizing.


Ahh........I feel better now.......so it's back to clearing general ledger errors for me!


I will have to investigate if there is a limit to comment length, but after reading Rick's reply I rather suspect that it was a hardware failure instead (his keyboard probably melted!).