Archive for the ‘Crazy ideas’ Category

Post a flurry of exuberant outpouring on Radical Proposals (links at the end of the post) aimed at tackling some of society’s most pressing problems, HaLin hit the pause button. Few seemed excited (HaLin actually pitched more palatable versions of the ideas to powers-that-be, who quickly reminded the fable of the goose that lay the golden egg), and less pressing issues took precedence. On careful search for thorny problems demanding somewhat crazy solutions, HaLin hit upon a problem worthy of addition to his expanding list of Radical Proposals.

Anyone who has been around academics/scientists/researchers, real or otherwise, for any length of time would notice a common grouse. Lack of funding. HaLin has long been an admirer of the Sciences – Natural, Social and Pseudo – and has strongly believed that the inability of the Illuminati to communicate with lesser mortals should not detract from their grand mission; of ridding the world’s problems. This community, generally also believed to exhibit scant understanding of the real world, are most comprehensible when complaining about the utter lack of funding and understanding on society’s part, of their many vital contributions. Rejected research proposals are attributed to recalcitrant attitudes or ignorance or both. Moreover, despite much progress, humankind is besotted with more problems than it would like to have on its menu. Solutions are nowhere in sight.

Given this, humankind faces a serious problem. A proposal to solve this pressing issue of lack of funding, whilst maintaining economic sanity, is duly recommended; for dissection, digestion, suggestion, redaction and comment. Though, criticisms are expected to feature most prominently.


Put simply, every single research proposal across the globe vying for funding, would receive full funding support. To ensure impartiality, a pan-global entity – Mission for Advanced Research Solutions (MARS)  – could be constituted to administer duties. MARS could be empowered legally to print money in unlimited amounts, with the sole constraint of doing so to fund research projects. MARS grants would not be entirely contingent on viability to humankind and probability of success. The currency used by this entity would be a special unit, perhaps referred to as RGU (Research Grant Unit).

Every earthling alive would hold an equal share in MARS, so benefits would flow directly and equally to all earthlings. No corporation, or a small set of privileged individuals would be shareholders; as in the present-day arrangements in key economic entities around the world. To ensure market stability, trading in these RGUs would be prohibited.

Earthlings in dire need for more RGUs could enter into a barter exchange agreement with fellow earthlings, with MARS standing in as the global Custodian and watchdog. For instance, University X that badly needs extra RGUs might enter into a barter exchange with University Y, on mutually acceptable, bilateral arrangements. The Over The Counter (OTC) barter system might also insure against black market or surreptitious trading, a common outcome when public trading is banned in a commodity of some value. This would also ensure reasonable matching of excess and deficits, whilst maintaining broad market stability.

It is likely that this broad brush, open-for-all approach would encourage many to seek a career in academia/science instead of heading to finance and assuming a bad name, by default. The attractive pay-off could potentially dwarf the pay-off provided by finance. As an unintended consequence, this would solve one major problem confronting the world today; vilification of finance. However, the open door would likely encourage rampant misuse, which remains a risk.

With time, there would be a proliferation of RGUs in the hands of the Illuminati, which would, essentially, be extra currency in their wallets. At some point in time, a seamless medium of exchange between RGUs and existing paper currency would be introduced (at a 1:1 exchange rate) to ensure smooth functioning (many services that the Illuminati would use for their research would have to be paid for, using actual currency).

This would lead to a new problem. Excess paper currency on Earth. The MARS Project, with its printing of RGUs, would be akin to the present system of Quantitative Easing, being employed to combat the world’s economic woes. The creation of a parallel currency system – the RGU – is recommended keeping in mind the ill-effects of excess currency floating in the world. As excess money would lead to a surge in inflation at some point, the creation of RGUs would be a first step at ensuring that continued (new) currency creation would not awaken the ogre of inflation.

In the moratorium period that would ensure post creation of MARS, RGUs would assume the character of future money, exchangeable for existing currency at central banks around the world. Till such time, RGUs would not enter the world financial system, and inflation would be kept at bay. When the exchange takes effect, a surge to swap RGUs for existing currency might be reasonably expected.

To smooth the effect, the Illuminati (who would hold much of the world’s RGU) would be suitable encouraged to deposit their RGUs at a warehouse specially created for this purpose; in planet Mars. Much of Mars’ atmosphere is carbon dioxide, which would serve as a reasonable deterrent to a daring heist (the thieves would have to be alive, which isn’t possible presently). The warehouses in Mars might be within the realm of possibility, thanks to the outcome of the many research projects that would bear fruition due to creation of the MARS Project. Machines administered by MARS would preside over the to-and-fro transactions. Withdrawals from the warehouses could be restricted to a semi-annual cycle, and to within, say, 25% of the RGU balance held by the individual. To further encouragement, an annual rate of interest – payable in RGU – would be on offer.

This proposal, if implemented, would let the Illuminati enjoy the fruits of their labour, even if part of the enjoyment would be deferred, their grumbling would cease. The world would get solutions to many thorny problems, old and newly created ones. While net currency in circulation on Earth would increase, the above laddered proposal pertaining to savings and withdrawals, would smooth the effects of inflation.

To be sure, this scheme is not infallible. Like any system, it is open to gaming and has chinks which need ironing out. Just the basic construct has been presented here. Specifics have been deliberately left out, for want of space and to let you, dear Reader, contribute in shaping this proposal.

For comment.


Radical Proposals, selected archives:

Tequila Shot Solution, To The World’s Prison Problem

Tax The Fat

On The Futility of Eating & Marriages. How To Reduce Food Wastage…

HaLin has been an actively passive watcher of the intensely (un)interesting Presidential candidate debates and intellectual mud-slinging, in the lead-up to US elections. With D-Day round the corner, HaLin realises that much of the electorate is likely to be reeling under the assault of political innuendo, being liberally thrown around from both sides.

This is a cause of much concern. In pressing times like these, where activity of any form is hard to spot, it behooves each thinking human to convey an impression of making an informed voting decision, in the very least.

This post hopes to serve as a guiding light in wading through the fog.

Political Left: A group of flip-floppers that see little Right, about anything in general, around election time.

Working for the greater good of humankind, this group brandishes the sabre of altruism to great effect. The unemployed, uninsured and the unhealthy merit a special spot in their lexicon. They attempt to do much for them, but periodically remind themselves of the fable of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

This group has, historically, displayed an attitude of nonchalance towards the economics of revenue and expenditure. They tend to view (permanent) budget deficits as manna from heaven. Spend more than what you make, repeat indefinitely, and all will be well with the world. Those in the electorate who haven’t yet allowed themselves to be brainwashed by this catchline (the pesky blaspheme) are strongly encouraged to drop their ill-functioning anchors of basic reason, and embrace what is clearly in their best interest.

This group likes to paint businesses as profit-making beasts created by the evils of Capitalism. They are known to throw good money after bad, with the sole aim of saving jobs and the economy; even though their record at achieving either is shrouded in mystery. They like taxing in taxing times and hope that businesses and individuals will pay an expanding share of a reducing pie (income). When blaspheme wonder how loss-making businesses will help increase jobs and wages, this group pounces upon dissenting voices, writing it off as a deplorable instance of naiveté, idiocy or a concoction of both.

When all else appears to fail, they opt to blame China, as the root cause of all ills; known and unknown.

Political Right: A group of flip-floppers that see little Left, about anything in general, around election time.

This group is pro-business, or at least likes painting itself with that palette. They liken Corporations, too big to fail and often too big to save, to Messiah of Prosperity. What they earn eventually makes it way to people, helping the economy, helping the electorate, helping goodness in general. This group, though, displays a lack of understanding of the wind of the day. In pressing times, a pro-proletariat group is likely to garner sympathy votes. The blaspheme who suggest this are branded as being anti-Capitalism, pro-idiocy, or a concoction of both.

This group utters things that are closer to truth than its opponents. But it fails to acknowledge the effects of basic psychology. How incoming information is interpreted by the thinking electorate is a function of how it is packaged and delivered. By adopting directness over vagueness, preferred by its opponents, this group opens itself for vilification and accusations of belligerence.

Their policies are crystal clear in their fogginess. In this respect, they have something in common with their opponents. But both sides indulge in exposing the ineptness of the opponent, while caring to remain ignorant of the muck accumulating in their own backyards.

Foreign policy from both sides, too, share some common threads. While they seem to differ in means, both sides display a penchant to land up, often uninvited, on foreign shores to sort out problems that hitherto did not exist. The process of problem creation and resolution has been institutionalised to perfection through years of intense practice. Blasphemes are encouraged to use sophisticated nomenclature, preferably purveyors of altruism, while describing their actions.

When all else appears to fail, they opt to blame China, as the root cause of all ills; known and unknown.

Mainstream business, Unbiased Media: Mouthpieces of President Obama and Left-leaners, featuring fawning Ivory Tower savants schooled in coloured interpretation of Keynesian diktats, in general; and well-schooled in selective perception and reporting in particular.

Electorate: A group, largely composed of real and professed proletariat and the creme de la creme of idleness, demonstrating a special affinity for assimilating propaganda. This affinity is neatly counterbalanced by a remarkable ability to tune out opinion-altering facts, especially of the real variety. This group is best advised to partake in leisurely pub outings with a selection of equally (un)informed mates for a detailed discussion on the best candidate and the state of the economy and foreign policy. Consensus decision-making is a hallmark of democracies, collective self-interest is an aggregation of individual self-interests.

This group repeatedly finds itself being called upon to exercise an informed vote, despite an impressive historical record of uninformed decision-making. The basic instincts of self-interest and preservation, honed by the process of evolution, miraculously seem to fall at the altar of the polling booth.

Those wondering if the outcome of the election will really alter the state of the economy would do well to follow Jonathan Swift’s words from the Logicians Refuted:

Thus at the court, both great and small

Behave alike, for all ape all.

Voting and going bust offers better risk-reward to doing nothing, for the same outcome.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to reality, however dysfunctional, is entirely intentional.

The nuclear age that had taken birth, surreptitiously, in the depths of the last World War, was proving to be a promising financial disaster for countries across the globe, already pulverised by the never-ending financial crisis.

Wisdom had begun to dawn on the handful of nations that were perched high on the nuclear ladder. They realised – after decades of sinking investment in fortifying themselves – that it was essentially a costly experiment in nothingness. Since 1945, despite close encounters and promising starts, miraculously, humankind hadn’t succumbed to unreason. Half a century had passed and the world had witnessed little mass action. No wars were forthcoming. Griping was high, as a result.

Smaller nations were knocking on the door to be part of the elite Fight Club. The Wise Guys nodded sadly, as attempts to pass on the lessons of their folly to these new members failed miserably.

A Council of Nations (CON) had been strung together, amid an atmosphere of healthy mistrust and cordial suspicion. A meeting was arranged and CON Members assembled at an unknown location. The agenda was unclear but many assumed the platform was likely to be used to conjure up a consensus to waging war, and putting an end to decades of collective wasteful expenditure and inaction.

An issue, which had the potential to trigger inclusive disharmony, was the need of the hour. Suggestions were solicited and after brief jousting, Members agreed on the CON Sea. The CON Sea was a sore nerve for years. Everyone thought they owned parts of the Sea but nobody seemed ready to agree. Even to disagree.

At stake were big numbers; multi-billion barrels of crude oil and multi-multi-billion cubic feet of natural gas. Or, so everyone thought. Curiously, everyone’s interest was piqued the moment these hidden treasures were discovered. Financial considerations had a magical way of fathering sovereign interests.

The largest CON Member by size – they called it Big C – immediately jumped into the discussion. It wanted a leading voice and exercised its rights to much of the area, citing history. History was a faithful friend to those particularly gifted in selective perception. Almost all CON Members seemed to share this exceptional gift. To their surprise, Members found that their respective drawings on the map seemed to overlap with everyone else’s.

Tempers threatened to simmer, and then soar. The smaller CON members harboured secret misgivings towards Big C, whose sole reason for existence was to thwart them, or so they thought. They wanted to see Big C out, if possible, but few enjoyed the force or will for a frontal assault. Forced smiles were seen. The meeting went nowhere.

Some smaller CON Members thought of turning to U. Sham, to solicit its wisdom. Sham had a reputation around the world as the Omnipresent Purveyor of Universal Freedom, who had a curious way of landing up, often self-invited, on sensing trouble. Its advice – solicited or otherwise, frequently otherwise – was aimed at quelling trouble when it saw one. Mystically, Sham’s ‘interests’ seemed to span the globe, even in places it had never visited, or heard of, before.

This was fertile territory indeed. U. Sham yearned to get involved, but wasn’t invited. Worse, none seemed keen on extending an invitation. It hoped that someone might invoke the Mutual Defence/Security Treaty that might help it sneak in to the Fight Club. Of course, this could happen only if Big C acted unruly. Big C appeared uninterested, so far. Whether Big C wished to send a message to other CON Members or to U. Sham (or both) was not superficially clear.

Meanwhile, a few more players were in motion elsewhere. Com. Reddie, was seen in conversation with a rather preachy icon known for his pacifist stance, G. D. Ian.

Both seemed a trifle worried at this drama. They thought, not without basis, that CON Sea was really a subtle exchange between Big C and U. Sham. They had to unite, even if temporarily, to avoid being sidelined by either the former, or the latter.

Matters came to a head, soon after. But almost everyone, independently, decided that nuclear arms were an inappropriate tool for warfare as surprise element was non-existent. Something else was needed in its place. They settled for Edible Warfare.

Thanks to technology, the world now produced and ate so much food, inventories were swelling globally. Food rotted, as inefficiencies in the supply chain between inventories and those in need of food were high. It was thought fighting with Food would serve multiple purposes. It would take care of wastage, possibly solve the problem of hunger (socially responsible objectives) and would be a truly surprise element (strategic objective).

The launch of battle was disputed. U. Sham assumed Big C of hanky-panky, Big C duly reciprocated with its perception. Smaller CON Members wished to have the first-mover advantage and assumed that U. Sham would assume Big C’s assumption and would go to war anyway. So they moved pre-emptively. Reddie consulted G. D. Ian, who seemed to be in the default posture of saintly meditation. Stupor was broken, belatedly, and they decided to get involved.

D-Day dawned and bombings began. Food-laden ICBMs flew furiously hither thither. MIGs and F-s downloaded food grains, while submarines capable of carrying vast tonnage of food as payload zoomed underwater. The assault of edibles was so fierce and so much food exchanged that the world paused to wonder. No one had thought there was such a huge stockpile of food on the planet. Gluttony and wastage competed for top spot.

Hawk-eyed observers sensed certain changes as a result of this mode of warfare. Instead of cowering in fear, people began eating more free food. They ate so much that large swathes of populace succumbed to the bear hug of gluttony and obesity. Damage was mutual and widespread.

Both social and strategic objectives were met. But there was no winner.

A gargantuan amount of food was eaten. More was simply frittered away. Edible Warfare had exacted a great toll. There was massive food shortage.

Nobody seemed interested in the barrels of oil and cubic feet of natural gas camouflaged beneath the CON Sea.

These could not be eaten.




The aboriginal man, primitivity notwithstanding, probably learnt about the direct relationship between risk and reward. Sit atop a tree, never venture down to hunt and he probably realised that he would be alive and well. Until hunger, or a snake, snared him. Gradually he expanded his sphere of movement and risk reduced, as awareness grew. Now risk lay in the unknown regions beyond aboriginal man’s sphere of influence.

This idea of risk-reward has since been passed on generationally to the present day. But as with serial mutations, the basic idea underwent an evolution of sorts. With survival issues taken care of, man turned his attentions towards recreational aggrandizement. Means took a backseat as ends assumed center-stage.

So it came to be that there are pursuits where one’s pay-off bears no relationship to the risks assumed. Seemingly useless professions have turned out to be incredibly indispensable, in the larger scheme of uselessness. What’s more, riches beckon to those smart enough to embrace these endeavours.

A short primer on how to make a living by indulging in these wondrous professions follows, for the interested. Parent readers might consider sharing this with their children. Others might consider a life-altering career change. Your gratitude shall be well received.

There exist today a battery of vocations that project an illusion of accomplishing a social relevant and useful objective. Mastering this art of illusion is of utmost importance, gaining precedence over everything else. A sample collection of professions is presented below.

Generally, examples of such pursuits abound in service-oriented pursuits; such as Consulting and Economics.

Consulting, first. A coup of gargantuan proportions can be achieved by those adopting this lucrative line of endeavour. The basic dynamics are quite simple. A glossy B-school degree is a great starting point. Demographically, great care should be taken to ensure that the protagonist’s age is on the right side of 25, under 20 is better. Miniscule(/no) knowledge of the real world is a marvellous quality to possess, for this profession. Only familiarity with manufacturing needed is in the important area of enthusiasm. Talent in believing in (and spreading) delusion ranks highly, in the hierarchy of importance.

Investments in ornate adornments, a shiny wardrobe, is a prerequisite. Some familiarity with exotic pursuits – art, wines, single malts, global warming – is desirable, as they have been known to be worthy catalysts in professional advancement. Finally, a set of clients, reasonably schooled in ignorance, would round out the coup. It is of critical importance for 20-and some’s to sermon industry veterans, who have often spent more time in their industries than the tyros have spent on Mother Earth.

Next, is Economics. A PhD in Combinatorial, Fractal, Mental Econometrica is Holy Grail enough. Talents in Confusopoly and sustained usage of terrifying jargon would confer an impregnable moat. Professionals should then master the art of recommending the opposite of whatever is rationally desirable. This has the effect of transferring the burden of the counterfactual on the receiver (who incidentally, pays liberally for this service). Since the professional would make good moolah irrespective of the quality of their track record, risk is minimal for a very fat pay-off. Experience in engendering economic disasters would help in brandishing a colourful resume. Humans are generously endowed with short-term memory, especially with respect to undesirable outcomes. This is the professional’s strongest USP.

Social media pursuits of various kinds come next. One might consider building an ‘app’ that lets users click pictures, then turn them into appropriately grainy masterpieces that no one can decipher, and lo! the Internet Picassos stand to make a fortune. It is not just imperative for the company to generate no revenue whatsoever; it should carry a credible promise of never generating revenue, let alone profits, in the foreseeable future. A company like a Facebook might find it very valuable to buy this invaluable company out for a couple billion papers-of-value.

Second and higher order professions – some cynics refer to these as parasitic professions –  are another promising area. News-makers, media fall under this category. In the only known exception to the Laws of Conservation of Physics, an ability to create something from nothingness is a peerless trait to possess. On this measure, psychiatry may also be considered, though the pay-off is likely to be gradual and plateau beyond a point. Needless intrusion into others’ lives and making them feel it is a moral obligation for them to participate is another art form that needs mastery. Finally, would-be parasites should be able to convince the source that it is the parasite that is superior.

The above suggested pursuits share common characteristics. They are indispensable in the larger scheme of uselessness, project a credible illusion of societal utility, offer fat pay-offs for little or no risk and reasonable certainty of recurring cash flow, over long periods.

Going to/sending your children to the battle front is a monumentally stupid endeavour, carrying huge risks for no reward (very often), often ending in death. In the same breath, devoting one’s life to medical research directed at eradicating dreaded diseases is another useless endeavour. This is generally true for research of any kind aimed at community benefit. Pay-off is dismal and there is no certainty of a successful find that could, in the very least, lead to a Nobel.

Finally, there are professions that carry little or no risk, for little or no reward whatsoever.

If nothing else works, one could always become a blogger.

Inflation and his brother, Deflation, were strange siblings. Apart from a rhyming name and a penchant for inflicting pain on those around them, the siblings’ personalities bore few pointers to their brotherhood. Each found it impossible to co-exist with the other, preferring instead the peace afforded by solitary existence. Neither was particularly welcomed by humans, who somehow, abhorred their presence, when they tried to make their existence felt.

Disturbed, the brothers attempted to unearth the reasons behind this hostile behaviour. What they found perplexed even the mavens of the Queer…

Like some humans, Inflation started thin and – like most humans – progressively grew heavier with time. Deflation, on the other hand, started fat and progressively grew thinner. Keen observers following Inflation’s growth noticed that the lad grew bigger and bigger with each passing day. On further observation, they thought the cause was an abundance in the supply of Money, which was nourishing fodder for Inflation. Deflation, on the other hand, seemed to grow thinner precisely due to a lack of similar nourishment. A handful of eager beavers, maestros of an arcane art-form called Economics, quickly concluded that controlling the supply of Money could regulate the brothers’ sizes. The consequences were dire…

Inflation noticed that he was a master illusionist. He created an illusion of growth for humans, who were generally oblivious to most things around them apart from the nickels that accumulated in their bank accounts. With time, as nickels grew, humans seemed mighty thrilled. What they seldom noted was that costs of most things that they so furiously consumed were on the rise too, sometimes growing faster than wages. Was there really growth? Inflation was a master of Money Illusion. Inflation gloated on learning about this hidden talent and smirked at the folly of human beings.

Queerly, both Inflation and Deflation held an intense admiration for the comely Gold. Humans, fearful of hyper-Inflation, frequently scampered crazy to Gold, courting her, doing their best to convince her to mollify Inflation’s wrath. She appeared to be successful in her endeavours but her record was patchy, at best. But humans, severely challenged when navigating the scale of time, especially backwards, cared for little but the very near-term. Gold seemed to be doing great and they deified her.

Always keen on growing ever thinner, Deflation pushed prices lower with time. Consumption-friendly humans noticed that their friendly neighbourhood cappuccino prices ticked down with time. Down went car prices, tuition fees, rents, real estate prices, household appliance prices and a slew of other materialistic things that humans enjoyed. But strangely, they did not seem happy with the scheme of affairs. Nickel-happy humans observed that their wages were stagnant or, worse, falling. Shrinking wages and dwindling bank accounts soon led to a congregation of the despondent.

It seemed that Inflation was preferable to Deflation. Few had lived in a Deflation-ruled world. Dread was high as a result.

Some felt the only way to trounce Deflation was by increasing Money. Money seemed like the cure-all. The spigots were opened.

All seemed well for a while…

Things got murky beyond a point, as humans forgot the true reason for owning things. Humans, ever alert to homing in on the scent of euphoria, felt a moral obligation to partake in the speculative orgy. Their frenzied buying was so intense that prices everywhere only went higher. Inflation started growing fatter, too much, too soon. When the bubble popped one fine day, prices reversed. The world looked different. Prices now only seemed to be headed down. Deflation stirred from a long period of slumber, even as Inflation prepared for hibernation. The Economists were invited to exorcise virulent spirits.

As Deflation reared his head, the Economist magicians, with their limited but well-rounded view of reality, recommended cranking up the fodder, Money supply. Known neither for prudence nor moderation, the Money spigots ran for far too long. Somebody had forgotten to turn the faucets off. Gradually, Inflation reared his head and Deflation threatened to hibernate. The Economists now recommended the opposite. The brothers were perplexed at these frequent flip-flops. Just who did the humans really like?

In a queer similarity with human relationships, those present went unappreciated while those absent were missed. That there were living entities queerer than themselves was quite enlightening to the brothers.

Neither seemed to understand humans.

Humans reciprocated.

Thought experiments are interesting. They allow the thinker to contemplate scenarios seemingly bearing little or no relevance to reality, while paradoxically capturing reality perceptively.

Imagine a world carved up into two zones; zone 1, Cleverland and zone 2, Foolishland. The initial state is characterised by perfect division.

The residents of Cleverland are advanced in education levels and indulge in furious enterprise. Detecting genuine humility in this group is a trifle far-fetched and on average, every Cleverland resident tends to assume (s)he is the all-knowing One. As CleverMan/Woman enthrones him/herself, it follows that everyone else is inferior to the Enthroned. Supposition of wisdom precludes efforts at critical introspection. Being overly aware, they assume they are the only ones worth existing in this vast universe.

On the other hand, inhabitants of Foolishland whoop it up in foolishness. A zone overflowing with simpletons, they take immense pride in their remarkable idio(syncra)cy and zealously resist intrusions that threaten to corrupt their ignorance. Education levels are universally low and their world-view is, well, rather limited. Generally, no resident of Foolishland is wise enough to pass oblique judgements on their fellow zone-folk. No one is superior (or inferior) to anyone else. Being overly ignorant, they assume they are the only ones existing in this vast universe.

As time wears on, certain patterns emerge. Cleverland is a cauldron of fiercely competitive individuals who take the Darwinian concept of survival of the fittest to the extreme. Fraudulence develops into a stylish appendage to enterprise and happiness comes to be viewed as a zero-sum game. Altruism in social gatherings is a fashionable indulgence and so is a professed appreciation of art, certain chosen animals and other exotic pursuits. Invisible veils camouflage a Frankenstein-ian alter ego but paradoxically, Clever-folk are strongly opposed to visible veils.

Foolishland, as might be expected, is not a conducive environment for profitable business. Being foolish, B is fooled by A, C is fooled by B…and so on the group is stuck in a permanent get-fooled-by-the-next man loop. It is interesting to note the parallel with Cleverland. Cleverland inhabitants are likewise stuck in a perpetual fool-the-next man loop (only here, A fools B, B fools C and so on).

Deceit is virtually absent in Foolishland. Being intellectual still-borns, Foolish-folk have scant appreciation of art and other pursuits that please the higher senses. Social gatherings are an interesting affair. Due to the absence of spurious altruism and other such wondrous emotions, they speak what they think, sometimes leading to awkward situations as a result. However, Foolish-folk are secure in the knowledge that no one is a phony and their forthrightness becomes a source of cheery humour. Uncomfortable situations are an integral part of Cleverland social gatherings too. However, these are typically caused by the lurking presence of fakery. Insecurity runs high as a result of distrust, derived from veiled niceties.

At some point, the zones intermingle. The Clever who saunter into Foolishland cannot believe their good fortune. Ill conversant in the advanced methods of survival so finely polished by the Clever, the Foolish get done in rather easily by the Clever. The Foolish – who generally don’t lie – gradually learn the fine art of deception after suffering at the hands of the Clever. The slow learners become perennial sufferers and some never learn at all. The latter group, which dwindles over time, owes its gradual extinction to the natural process of death rather than to conversion.

The Clever quickly become Socrates-like figures in social gatherings; the proverbial one-eyed King leading a kingdom of the blind. Foolish-folk advance a little along the intellectual scale but most stay around their natural rate of foolishness. Instead of growing Clever, they learn ways to survive without too many mishaps. While the Clever learn little from the Foolish, the latter learn a lot many things…of the dubious variety, from the former.

Foolish that end up in Cleverland, swiftly run into trouble of various sorts. Apart from being undone by the superior intellect of the Clever in business dealings, they encounter ridicule in social gatherings. They gradually learn that there is no market for qualities like authenticity and straight-forward courtesies. Unable to grow an invisible veil, they become social recluses, preferring the company of fools to the company of intellectuals. They, however, learn novel forms of deceit but don’t get very far. The Clever need a certain level of genuine fakery to make the cut. The Fools flunk badly.

Time wears on and gradually a point is reached where the Clever try their best to come across as Foolish, while the Foolish fall over themselves attempting the opposite.

The line blurs permanently.


This is a moderately reworked re-run of an old post from the early days of Haphazard Linkages.

Apple was unhappy. Despite giving the world a slew of droolable products and doing its bit to improve quality of human life, there seemed to a growing chorus of voices against the technology industry. Stung by what it thought were unfair allegations, Apple came to believe that this wave of vilification was perpetrated by the Finance industry.

After years of being castigated publicly, Finance had fallen in the eyes of the world. Apple thought that in a bid to redeem its deteriorating image, Finance was inappropriately employing tools of new-age technology – its own products, Facebook, Twitter – to spread the Word. Something had to be done before matters got out of hand.

Apple had nearly $100 billion in cash in its bank. On desultory evening walks, it frequently scratched its half-bitten head for avenues to put this money to work. During one such errand, Apple bumped into Facebook. After hastily exchanging pleasantries, an evidently excited Facebook filled Apple in on its upcoming share offering. Would Apple be interested?

A plan took shape in Apple‘s smart head. It seemed the perfect idea. So designed that all parties involved would walk away with a smile. And, Finance would be dealt a striking blow. As Finance was using Technology to spread its word, Apple decided to employ complex Finance to exact revenge. It felt that the best strike against Finance would be to employ speculation for immediate gains, at the expense of folks who took the opposite side in the proposition. Finance would then be blamed.

Apple suggested that it would be interested in taking Facebook‘s entire share issue on offer. Facebook gloated but it didn’t appear to express much gratitude.

Facebook was looking to raise $10 billion. Apple would spend $10 billion acquiring this stake, a fraction of its $100 billion cash hoard. Things seemed simple so far. But motivated by considerations of vengeance, it decided to unleash complex instruments of Finance. Apple thought of Exchangeable Bonds*.

* Exchangeable Bonds are debt instruments that pay a coupon/interest, and give bondholders the option of converting the bonds into shares of a company nominated by the issuer. Apple, in this case, would be the issuer.

Apple would then make an offering of Exchangeable Bonds for $14 billion. Further, it would offer holders the right to convert their Exchangeable Bond into shares of the hot Facebook. Facebook‘s happiness grew some more on hearing this. Apple investing in Facebook would further fuel euphoria. Besotted by the prospect of its IPO, Facebook did not pause to appreciate Apple’s ingenuity in this innocuous offer. For the Exchangeable bondholders, this would be an indirect way of getting their hands on Facebook‘s shares, which would otherwise be difficult to obtain given the euphoria. Moreover, Apple would pay them (interest payment) to have the right of owning Facebook shares!

Apple felt this would be a coup. Scores of eager beavers wanted a piece of Facebook‘s IPO. Euphoria was so high that no price was deemed too high for Facebook’s shares. The shares would sky-rocket, when they began trading. As shares soared, Apple would let its exchangeable bondholders have their Facebook shares. Meanwhile, it would have discovered a way of making $4 billion without investing a dime ($10 billion spent on Facebook, offset by $14 billion received from its Exchangeable Bond). The money made could be fuelled to creating new products that would sell on (more) euphoria.

To execute these transactions, they would engage every known investment banking company on the planet. Always warm to the prospect of making doubloons, no investment bank would spurn their proposal.

Apple would be happy. Facebook would be happier, and Apple’s shareholders would be the happiest. An alluring prospect, indeed.

The strategy played out as planned. To a point.

…then everything began going awry.

The numerous Likers on Facebook grew tired and spent less and less time on it. Its shares tanked.

Apple’s ingenious transaction was predicated on Facebook‘s shares rising in value. When the share price fell, Apple was in a hole. Its $10 billion investment in Facebook‘s shares went underwater; and it had to pay interest on its Exchangeable Bond plus the $14 billion principal when it fell due.

Apple had orchestrated a euphoric strike on Finance but was promptly consumed by it. As revenge overcame reason, Apple failed to consider the consequences if things went wrong. Finance provided a means of laying off this risk, but in an atmosphere of euphoria, prudence died a quiet death.

The world, once again, pilloried Finance as the Great Evil. Anti-Finance voices added adherents and decibels. The same voices chorused against Facebook and Apple. The latter were blamed for fanning hype and euphoria, leading to widespread distress.

In the Great Battle of Technology and Finance, there was no winner.

Meanwhile, the central protagonists in the drama of euphoria, who were now railing against the above ills, never paused to point a finger at themselves.