How French Fries Conquered Nuclear Warfare

The world was in a state of suppressed dread over the prospect of Nuclear war. Nuclear Code-rattling in parts of the world had raised the spectre of a global nuclear fight. Several nations considered the possibility of being pulled into the vortex, often against their will.

Much time was devoted to finding peaceful solutions. Everyone wanted peace. Yet wanted to fight.

A solution was found.

Food warfare.

The Earth was producing so much food that a problem of scarcity had turned into a problem of plenty. Compared to 5 billion tonne of food in early 1960s, earthlings now produced 18 billion tonnes of food annually. This translated into over 2 tonnes of food per human on earth every year.

Including all competitors for food, it was tough for each eater to down 2 tonnes of food every year. One-third of food fit for human consumption was wasted anyway. This wastage could be put to good use.

As an instrument of war.

The spatial distribution across the Earth’s landscape meant food surpluses in some geographies. Mirrored by food shortages in others. Same held true for the distribution patterns of food wastage. Fat supply, too, was in abundance in some developed geographies, with scarcity in others.

War strategy would be simple. It would involve taking stock of food wastage – the low hanging fruits, pun unintended – and ICBM-ing food on enemy territory. For instance, a targeted, sustained fat shower would induce the erstwhile undernourished regions to help themselves to these freebies. Rather than grumble about bombardment, the attacked could find occasion to thank their enemies. Their governments would be grateful as well. What they struggled to solve for decades would be solved by an enemy. In a jiffy.

Selling the idea domestically would be a piece of cake too. Belligerent nations with food surpluses could wrap the war idea in truly humanitarian robes. Fat/protein/fruit/vegetable/carb bombardment on enemies that did not have basic human nourishment needs was a virtue. Who could disagree? They could point to the patchy record of aid interventions. Bombardment of enemy territories that needed basic necessities of life would be the most bona fide way to solve longstanding problems. This would also solve pesky food inequality questions. Past wars had developed a bad name as narratives weren’t packaged as altruistic intentions.

Scenario impact analysis would paint a picture of enemy populations feasting on so much food that folks would begin dying of overeating. The same outcomes from nuclear war would be realised. Achieved through humanitarian means. After the first waves, late movers would begin seeing the benefit and indulge in barter warfare. Mutual surplus food items would form part of attack arsenals.

As the world settled into this new scheme of things, longer-run implications would involve cutback in defence spending, and increased allocation to building surplus food arsenals. Watching the benefits of food warfare, potential warlords/dictators would take a leaf of this book, and step up massive food spending. What worked on enemies could work just as well on their own.

As a means of subjugating Peoples and winning wars, food would emerge as the most widely palatable weapon of mass destruction.

Was the world ready to ruminate on this?

 

Credit Seeking In Crypto Land

HaLin is a fan of Fermi Problems, inverting intractable issues, and conjuring up humorous solutions.

This Radical Proposal is a humorous missive on a serious topic. How credit would look like in a crypto world.

 

Crypto Earth Bank

One of the successes of paper-based monetary systems is the ability to let citizens ‘own’ other people’s money. The fractional banking system, through the multiplicative effect of credit, enables consumers and businesses to have access to capital that they do not own. This system, despite periodic boom-bust cycles, has succeeded in delivering economic ‘growth’. Cash + credit = ‘wealth’. Throw in more credit and voila! more wealth is created.

Earth Bank Crypto (EBC) currency could be created by converting the stash of current notes and coins in circulation in the world (around $ 5 trillion) and distributing it equally to the world’s 7.6 billion people. Each of us would get around $ 658 equivalent of EBC in our decentralised Earth Bank accounts. This is all the cash that each of us would start with. (This would have the happy consequence of silencing wealth inequality activists. Everyone would be equalised by a stroke of computing power).

No central bank, or governments, would be needed to play Class Teacher to keep errant students in check. Or so the idea would be, in theory.

True to our innate nature, though, several would aspire for more wealth. To satisfy our economic needs and unsubtle aspirations at wealth enhancement, we would urgently need access to cash that we did not own.

 

The Greedy Lend To The Needy

Unused crypto balances of holders could be lent out to those in need of money. Transactions could be recorded on the blockchain, so the trail identified borrowers at all times. To repay, with interest, the borrower would need more crypto. For instance, A borrowing EBC 100, would have to repay EBC 105 at year-end. The borrower would be able to repay with interest only if they managed to garner new cryptos from the existing pile. Borrowers that consume EBCs away with no thought of repayment would be in a bind to repay their crypto debts.

Some enterprising savers, meanwhile, would take to making markets themselves. They would ask for an interest as compensation for their troubles and to protect against defaults. The interest rate they would desire would vary as per varying urgency demands of borrowers. With time, demand for EBC credit would outgrow the rate of growth of EBC itself, leading to interesting outcomes.

The demand would cause the price of EBC and the borrowing rate to go up.

The insatiable growth for EBC credit, and subsequent lack of easy access to new sources of funds, would lead to a wave of defaults. Borrowers and other affected parties would blame usurious crypto lenders. They would urge the Earth Bank to print new crypto. Or let them tap into more unused cryptos, if EBC had a finite limit like Bitcoin. New EBC, or unused cryptos, would have to be passed on borrowers, so they could make whole on their debts.

This would, in all likelihood, lead to a fork. Either the Earth Bank would have to loosen its constraints, and print new EBC to bail out the world. Which would resemble the  present fractional banking system.

Or CreditEBC would come into existence.

With a sole purpose of being used as a transaction medium for EBC credit. Forks, specifically created for credit, could ‘speak’ with other crypto currency through a market observable exchange rate. Rising demand for CreditEBC would cause its price to rise. Unable to access either EBC or CreditEBC, the weakest borrowers would eventually come unhinged. Leading to defaults. And a few suicides.

Earthlings would find that this system was similar to the present system.

The decentralised Earth Bank would be in the same position as commercial banks today. Hoping that not all EBC depositors demand their cryptos back at the same time. And praying that not all borrowers went under.

Cascading defaults would lead to a systemic too-big-to-fail problem. Not unlike the present situation, where banks rely on central bank for bailouts. A consensus would be needed. Finding themselves out of a job, bands of people around the world – who earlier called themselves governments – would try to create a new role for themselves. As overseer of the Earth Bank. They would also aspire to resolve newly created inequalities. Decentralised computing power, overseen by a global band of people, would determine crypto creation. Forks of the inedible kind, built after a consensus was struck, would lead to new crypto currencies.

The blockchain sought to break free of the institutional imperialism of governments and quasi-governmental institutions.

The Earth Bank could take the Earth right back to status quo.

 


How To Solve Research Funding Problems, Using A Parallel Currency System

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…

On The Futility Of Eating. Marriages. How To Reduce Food Wastage, By Banning Marriages

On The Evolution & Futility of Eating

By assigning appropriate weights to preconceived biases and no objectivity, one would be drawn to posit that the act of living out a life is an activity high on wastefulness. Being alive is a tough chore.

The aboriginal human found much nourishment in the rawness afforded by Nature. Climb a tree, pluck and devour fruits whose names early Adam did not know (or care about), or dive into friendly waters for a wondrous menu of exotic aquatica, or, if he had the motivation, to hunt for slippery quadrupeds. Everyone was entertained and lived happily; though some died in the process.

But all good things come to an end.

Nobody knows why we are here but being here, we enthusiastically look forward to indulging in belly enhancement. As mankind progressed, we experienced a bewildering desire to attain a level of culture in our eating habits. Few paused to ruminate, pun unintended, that after a very brief interlude spent flirting with the insides of the mouth, food’s journey through the gullet was swift, and once it landed in the stomach, the drama was over. Food entered the mouth in one form, journeyed in another and reached the stomach in a completely unrecognisable form. During meal times, we periodically indulge in the above activity, not once but several times over. Repeating the same set of movements.

Then, some more changes happened.

Multi-century growth in paper wealth and technological advancements led to a situation where we now produce more food than we eat more than we need. In this indecent show of gluttony are a great number of humans that go hungry.

Death is a given but we derive much thrill from delaying the process. Eating is a global bane.

Included in the assorted obnoxious wastes that are expelled naturally, in the process of eating, food wastage is a particularly unwanted consequence. Contributory factors behind this wastage can be traced to the development of another fad. Marriages.

The Futility of Marital Union

Much as death is the norm, life the exception, marriage is an exception to Nature’s evolutionary norm of polyamory. By inwasteing in medical research, we have succeeded in prolonging the exception of life. And by a jingoistic obsession with marital bondage, we have tried to achieve something similar in another arena.

Nature eventually prevails, as the chart below, capturing Marriage and Divorce trends in UK, seems to indicate.

Monetary benefits and convenience aside, there is no compelling reason for humans to indulge in the blissful ignorance of marital bliss. Through evolution, Companionship and Pleasures never knew about the existence of the M-word, which remains an entertaining man-concocted attempt at altering the course of Nature.

Radical Proposal: How To Reduce Food Wastage, By Banning Marriages

Policy actions that reverse these unwelcome trends should be welcomed and given a fair run. Much good can be achieved by addressing both these ills, ideally through a single policy.

One such radical proposal follows.

India is a good geography to begin with, for multiple reasons. In a wondrous irony, India has the second largest stockpile of food in the world yet has a quarter of its populace going to bed hungry and is home to over 40% of the world’s undernourished children. In addition to these, it is also one of the geographies best known for Big-Fat Weddings, where ostentatiousness is directly proportional to one’s apparent ‘arrival’ in society. Multi-thousand guest lists are common and understated vulgarity is scoffed at.

Some fun with numbers, to get a handle of the size of the problem. According to the Food Ministry, 100,000 weddings and social galas happen daily. Assuming a bare minimum of 50 guests are invited to the food fiesta, that’s a princely 5 million belly enhancers at work. Daily. Further assuming that the average meal weighs 500 gram, that’s 2.5 million kilogram of food. About 20% is wasted (an underestimate, most probably), so this translates into a conservative guesstimate of half a million kilogram of food wasted. Daily.

Some value guesstimates. At $5 per plate (conservative), $25 million is directed towards this display, daily. At 20% wastage run-rate, $5 million goes down the drain, quite literally, every day. ~$2 billion per year in wastage. Spread over a decade, this would dwarf Cyprus’ economy.

The distribution of food wastage is most likely skewed towards certain geographies, thanks to such ancillary activities of entertainment. Banning marriages might likely stem this rot, on needless wastage of precious food and needless wastage of (essentially worthless) money.

This would, additionally, also set right our aberrational tampering of Nature’s basic diktats of polyamory.

Successful application, overcoming intense resistance, could then encourage extensions to other geographies. Gradually, the entire globe would be covered under this policy, which shall fall under the aegis of a pan-global body, intended at rectifying Man’s blasphemy of Nature.

The body might be named, somewhat tongue-in-cheek as; Humans for humans, against Natures Laws. Which is true enough to convince unsuspecting humans to take the bait.

The inherent limitations and one-leggedness of this radical proposal is not lost on yours truly. But then, were one to ponder, most plans that humans have instituted throughout history for supposed community benefit have never really worked well for everyone and have broken down, at various points.

Going bust is the norm. One hopes this humble proposal shall be added to the long list of futile experiments attempted by Man.

No one died trying.

How To Make A Living, In Useless But Indispensable Vocations

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.

How To Create A Financial Crisis…By Tapping The iPad

In the past century, affluence increased greatly, eager parents could send their future Newtons to big-name schools, which tried furthering education. Schools did a commendable job of schooling folks in tailoring individual actions to suit immediate self-interests but did not teach the art of contemplating the consequences of collective individual efforts. We began believing in the limitless powers of our knowledge. Soon Hubris came knocking and Prudence made a quiet exit.

Not content with building bridges and railroads, man extended ingenuity to other areas. Financial instruments were one such serendipitous invention. Real assets – land, gold, metals – were gradually superseded by paper assets. The benefits of this transition, while real, gradually fostered excesses which began ending disastrously. Attempts at plugging holes only led to creation of new ones. Nobody had/(s) solutions but that does not dissuade us from creating the illusion of finding one.

…and so it is fashionable today to vilify finance as the root cause of our woes. Given this, it is our humble duty to do our bit in furthering this notion. What better way to make a case than engender a crisis?

Yours truly offers a prospect that carries a high probability of culminating in a disaster of gargantuan proportions.

Since gadgets have come to be considered yardsticks of coolness today, we begin with Apple’s battery of products. The launch of the latest iPad was a widely watched event. Even as the price of the latest gizmo was announced, prices of earlier versions of the iPad dropped.

One of the near maxims in the technology world is that a launch of a newer version causes prices of older versions to drop, sometimes precipitously and permanently. The first step would involve creating instruments that derived values from the prices of various versions of the iPad. Once such derivative instruments come into existence, one would buy the instrument that mirrors the latest product (we’ll refer to the derivative instrument as IPD 3, for simplicity) and simultaneously sell the instrument that mirrors the older versions (IPD X).

Crowds, apart from mongrels, are among man’s best friends and should be tapped appropriately. Generally, anything new in the technology world evokes frenzied interest. As flashing the latest gadget seems to have a direct bearing on one’s societal and social media standing, demand for iPad3 would be immense; accompanied by a concomitant decline in demand for older versions. Prices of IPD 3 would increase, while IPD X would fall. The above suggested trade would yield juicy, almost-certain gains. Near risk-free arbitrage.

Fools do in the end what the wise do in the beginning. Once the earliest adopters of this trade make out with handsome gains, the crowd would, as they always do, latch on to the operation. Soon demand for IPD 3, the paper product, would outweigh demand for iPad3, the real product, leading to divergence in prices of the real and paper instruments. The seeds of disaster would begin to sprout…

Demand would then increase to a point where frenzied people would find it difficult to get in on the trade. The concept could then be extended to other competitors. Blackberry and Samsung, for instance. Keen technology watchers would have, no doubt, followed Blackberry’s recent tale of woe with alacrity. Instruments similar to IPD 3 that mirror prices of Blackberry’s slew of products would be created and pumped into the system to satiate demand. Smart folks would, for instance, buy Apple’s paper derivative instruments and simultaneously sell Blackberry’s.

We could utilise another fashion of the present day. Social media. Twitter and Facebook would be helpful in creating Like-able pages and spreading the word. Crowds would be useful here too. As most of us revel in indulging in you-lick-my-back-I-lick-yours activity in the social networking world, the above idea could go viral, till a great number of people joined the juggernaut. Gradually, so many would be dabbling in the trade that nobody would remember the original idea or the mode of execution.

Just to ensure that the crisis would be one of gargantuan proportions, we could introduce another instrument suggested by yours truly earlier. Fortune Default Swap: Hedge Your Misfortunes Away, that is designed to safeguard against attacks of misfortune.

Once enough people line up on one side of a boat, not much is needed to tip the boat over.

Crowds would serve as catalysts that would trigger the disaster. Prices of the real and paper instruments would get so far out of whack that a group of smart early bunnies would look to cash out. All at once. These would be the original boat rockers. Once enough folks rushed for the exit, all at once, the process of crisis creation would be complete. By then, the above instruments would have become so big that they would qualify for too-big-to-fail.

At this point, governments would get involved and orchestrate a bailout to save the crowds, so they could indulge in similar activities in the future.

Finance would be vilified.

…and the crowds would live (un)happily ever after.

Tequila Shot Solution, To The World’s Prison Problem

Disclaimer: I’m no expert. Which is why, perhaps, the following proposal might be worthy of some mind-space.

One of the aims of this blog is to invert irresolvable problems, for humourous excursions, and for the (remote) possibility of a Eureka-moment.

The world’s Prison Problem is one such that merits some attention.

Roughly 10 million humans call the prison their homes, around the world. At a median cost of approximately $20,000 per prisoner, a guesstimate of the total cost of supporting prison operations works out to an eye-popping $200 billion per year.

A rather wasteful means of deploying scarce capital.

With the arrival of the economic crisis, attention veered to this huge number. As governments grappled with reducing avenues for revenue, there was agreement that prison expenditure needed to be slashed.

Criminology experts have been propounding solutions that broadly fall under the following: (a) keeping low-level offenders off jails, (b) suggesting community orders as a quid pro quo for prison trials, (c) expediting the trial process, (d) private prisons. Sound solutions each of these, with their pros and cons, but none have managed to drastically reduce cost of prison operations.

Consensus exists when it comes to the worst offenders. They are a threat to society, humans, and sometimes, animal citizenry too. This lot is often seen claiming that their destitution inhibits restitution, of past offences. Their devolution into the world of crime is generally assumed to be irreversible, as is successful rehabilitation. On the other hand, the young offenders – first-time pilferers, house-burglars, street muggers, drug paddlers and their ilk – are in early stages of evolving into a full-blown societal menace. These could be arrested – punnily not literally, of course – first.

Here’s a solution. The Tequila Shot Deal.

Offenders could be offered a simple either/or proposition.

(A) A session of 100-shot tequila, to be downed in one sitting. The offenders could be intimated that a 100-shot tequila, taken in one sitting, could successfully take Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) over the fatality barrier.

(B) Returning to society and behaving responsibly. As an added gesture of benevolence and goodwill, each potential prisoner could be offered a one-time incentive payment of $10,000. This would buy them the time they would need to find a means of leading a life of normalcy and boredom (a.k.a Employment). Repeat offenders would be offered the 100-shot tequila session sans the goodwill handout. Yet repeat offenders could eventually be encouraged to take the 100-shot session, which would be the only option on the menu.

The implicit threat of fatality offered with civility would dissuade most from entertaining the idea of opting for crime as a career option.

The cost?

Assuming a typical tequila shot costs $10, a 100-shot sitting would cost $1,000 per potential prisoner. Extending this civil deal to 10 million inmates would cost $10 billion. The $10,000 handout per miscreant would add $100 billion to this bill. Summing the two, we arrive at $110 billion, a near 50% reduction to existing cost of operations. A one-time amnesty could be offered to the existing 10 million prison inmates, which would cost a one-time $100 billion. Over a 20-year time frame, the Tequila Shot Deal has the potential to lead to significant savings.

This significant cost reduction would allow leeway to finance tequila shots for repeat offenders, leaving a good chunk of capital to be directed towards more productive arenas.

The Deal’s appeal to would-be prisoners is straightforward. Indeed, many might be encouraged to take the handout with a minor violation. This would be welcome, as the civil threat of eventual extermination by drinking, combined with the one-off nature of the handout, would dissuade most from pushing their luck too far. For those who do, it would be a civil goodbye gesture.

The tax-paying lot would welcome this solution, for obvious reasons.

Politicians would be grateful too. They would have hit upon a means of reducing prison inmate count and simultaneously slashing expenditure; the perfect message for electoral campaigns. As grateful beneficiaries of the handout, potential politicians, who often begin their journey in the world of crime, would be the scheme’s devout promoters.

One may also see tequila manufacturers nodding in approval.

Any solution that appeals to capitalists and haters of capitalism is something that merits some attention!

Tax The Fat: A Case For Plausible Nonsense

Mathematics is one area that comes close to making a somewhat binary distinction between nonsense and plausible nonsense. For instance, calling 4 as Odd would unanimously be classified (by most) in the former category, with the caller being suspected of tending towards idiocy. Plausible nonsense, on the other hand, is the realm of conjectures; possibilities that people think exist but do not know with conviction, either way.

Away from the precise world of arithmetic, one finds that the line separating the two blurs rapidly. Subjects that allow subjectivity (pun unintended) lead to various instances of plausible nonsense. Where beliefs and biases are allowed a free rein, plausible nonsense takes shape.

Nonsense value drops automatically when we encounter speakers/experts that echo the exact same belief(s) as ours. Those that hold opposite views automatically fall under the purview of the nonsensical. It is in such cases that plausible nonsense comes into its own; as a tool that encourages inversion of ideas, exploration of unconventional solutions, and healthy discussions (sometimes heated and expletives-laden).

Consider incurables ailments. We still have no cure for the common cold, or diarrhoea or obesity.

Let’s focus for a moment on the last of these items.

We, as a world, faithfully grow fatter, by the second. The direct and indirect costs of obesity in US alone was estimated at about $150 billion annually in 2009. Include the rest of the planet and we’d quickly be staring at a number close to several fat three-digity billions.

Billions in funding over the years has done little to thwart or slow down this phenomena. Alternative measures may be worth considering. A Tax on the Fat perhaps? The arrangement could be pretty straight-forward. A Body Mass Index classification would help differentiate the obese from the non-obese. The obese could then be forcefully requested to pay a tax on consumption, travel and all other areas where they contribute to public inconvenience. Genuine cases (historical thyroid/diabetes issues, other evolutionary stimuli) would be exempt from this tax, but the voluntary obese could be called upon to contribute their rightful share of doubloons.

Punnily, the obese would be worth their weight in gold. This would not only garner governments additional revenue in these cash-strapped times, it would also encourage the voluntary obese to think hard about toning down. As an encouragement to this beleaguered group, government-run gym memberships could be free. As yet another added incentive, lowering BMI within a certain time-frame could result in reversals of taxes shelled out in the past. As a disincentive, a relapse into higher BMI would lead to imposition of retrospective payments, including a penalty compounding at usurious rates.

(Historical experience with gym memberships should make governments optimistic on the low levels of maintenance expenditure that would be required, owing mainly to large-scale non-usage).

Plausible nonsense. Worth considering.

Cretacean goobledygook, is another case of plausible nonsense. In a spiritedly successful attempt at getting consumers to pay a bomb for rain water, Evian et al dutifully remind mineral water drinkers around the world that the liquid in their hands evolved slowly at the foothills of the Himalayas/Alps/Urals etc. over hundreds of thousands of millions of awzillions of years. Uh, however, would they care to consume it before the expiry date please? Thank you Sir, but I’m perfectly fine with my friendly tap dutifully spouting water at my behest, every day. (I’m alive and well).

How plausible is this thousands of years story? Even if right (which it is), why include the expiry date? Plastic bottles! Adding plastic and other chemical contaminants, labelled of course as essential additives, to the elixir of Nature is an encore bordering on the laughable.

Plausible nonsense?

Many such examples abound around us. Plausible nonsense can be employed as a means of concocting ingenious and cost-efficient solutions to intractable and irresolvable problems.

Adhering to the status quo has its benefits. But it also falls short, frequently. Plausible nonsense could, in the very least, encourage a rethink.

Let the expletives begin.

A Radical Proposal, To Cure The World’s Ills

Much virtual ink, trees, board room/coffee shop/pub debates have been spent in trying to unearth solutions to the economic volcano that erupted 4 years ago. The crisis has had a happy effect on the wallets of experts, who realised that much money could be made by passing opinions that were seldom useful, that no one cared for or acted upon.

This rather sorry state of affairs has urged me to conjure up my own proposal(s) to resolve the pesky problems facing the world. I must declare that I am no expert; which is why, perhaps, it would be worthwhile for the governments of the world to ponder over my well-intentioned gobbledygook.

Suggesting to an over-indebted human – who has seen his income halve or disappear altogether – to assume more debt as a medicine for his ills, not only borders on the amusing but is also grossly detrimental to his well-being.

Here are some humble proposals for curing the world’s ills.

One of the chief causes of our problems is oversupply, in nearly everything that is of every-day utility to man. With an existing inventory of 260 kg of grain for every human, it makes little sense to invest more money/subsidise/incentivise advancements in agriculture that would augment supply. Curtailing investment on this front will not only benefit existing farmers through increasing agri-commodity prices (flat supply, consistently rising demand), it will also alleviate the burden on the tax-paying class indirectly footing the ‘agriculture modernisation’ bill.

The other big issue is Global Warming, a hopelessly over-chorused hocus pocus on an evolutionarily natural phenomena. The history of the universe is one of alternating cycles of warming and cooling. Before the Ice Age, progressive cooling brought everything to a standstill. For a few thousands years of tranquillity. As we emerged from the Ice Age and went about procreating earnestly, the warmth that was felt wasn’t just attributable to physical proximity to other humans; it was due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

As we hurtle forwards in time, that wonderful fellow called Entropy will ensure that things only get increasingly chaotic from here. The Earth will, at some point, burn itself into extinction. As this point is several thousand years away, it is unwise to continually pump money now to find a solution to a natural cycle. The $100 billion spent so far has proved more successful in Warming scientists’ and experts’ chairs Globally, than in finding solutions. Suspending funding for Climate Change Programs would prospectively relieve the planet of several thousands of billions in commitments, funding which would otherwise emerge from the tax-payer’s pocket.

Next, to the vast area of medical funding. When death is the norm, life the exception, it is imprudent to spend vast resources in inventing permanent cures for cancer, AIDS and all other natural catalysts of extinction. Evolution invented them for a good reason. By prolonging lifetimes, the burden of feeding the old falls on the young…who have few jobs or a career or a future to look forward to. Much of the accumulated ills that are upon us today can be traced to advances in medicine, which has increased life expectancy to a point, where the incremental addition of years isn’t worth the lifestyle benefits accruing to humans sparring with expiry dates.

We spent unnecessary billions building nuclear weapons, only to wind up unnecessarily spending billions trying to keep them in check. Wasted billions notwithstanding, we unnecessarily spend billions trying to find solutions to incurable diseases, which have the potential to naturally correct the excesses of the world.

As an extension of the above, years of pontificating about the benefits of birth control (accompanied by liberal spending) has achieved little in arresting population growth. A rethink is called for.

Forced living beyond a certain upper age limit in the constant company of (medicinal) drugs with little mental peace seems like an unwelcome prospect. Not of much utility, at best and exacerbating problems, at worst. In a modified version of Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal, thoughtful rationing of the old is a solution worth considering. By reverting to the norm of bygone centuries, progressively reducing life expectancy would entail much lower investment and would engender vast long-term benefits.

The above proposals carry additional benefits. Apart from offering the prospect of slashing unnecessary expenditures, the proposals offer global governments an opportunity of lending a touch of realism to the ongoing Utopian programs of austerity.

A Modest Proposal: Tapping The Mavens of Failure

There are vocations that thrive on the emotion of fear. Terrorism is one such that immediately springs to mind. But there is another vocation that shares similar dynamics to terrorism; which isn’t enchained to be carried out surreptitiously, which (generally) does not involve loss of life and – most importantly – is untouched by the law: Astrology.

Centuries of evolution and progress in knowledge may lead us to think that collective ignorance has been South-bound with the passage of time. It is safe to posit that in the tug-of-war between Time and Ignorance, the latter will emerge triumphant as Time eventually runs out of steam…

Blind faith in a greater good and fear are the common elements linking the two. They attract young, impressionable souls that are easily oversold on the idea of the great nobility of the Path. Both are assisted by the problem of the counter-factual. Most times, if-then scenarios cannot be tested to determine the alternative; especially when the scenario(s) involve possible dalliances with the after-life, in some form.

The Sun has just entered Aries and the time is right to focus on relevant matters.

While consensus is easily achieved against Terrorism, the Astrology camp is a fractious one. Some nations are less polarised than others and it is the latter that is of focal interest here. In these countries, intelligent souls exercise strong opinions in condemning the vice of Terrorism but habitually extol the virtues of Astrology.

Nuptial beginnings frequently originate from the Stars, long before the eventuality is consummated. Aeons of experience, favouring failures, has failed to ignite a spark of inquisitiveness in this matter. When Astrology appears to fail, a mighty swipe dismisses the failure as an exception; even as Rule takes umbrage at being renamed as Exception.

The advance of society has fostered a litany of voices supposedly opposed to this art. As with matters pertaining to society, persistence culminates in a sighting of reality, as the curtain of cultivated artificiality gradually drops away. The vociferous public denouncers are often found among the enthusiastic closet-adherent community.

Those who despise predictions from the Stars generally find a believable adaptation in Economics and Financial Market Prognostications. Two areas closest in character to Astrology but not recognised as such. Both have impressive records of failure often spread over several centuries; involving Nostradamuses in suits. Yet, the legion of Intelligents continues to attract the gullible and other wannabe Intelligents, who move from one form of gullibility to another in making that transition.

Generally, these mavens do a good job of predicting the past, although their track record in this respect is suspect. The practitioners operate under the omnipresent threat of ignorance, preying on the emotion of Fear. Prognoses generally originate from the Stars, except that the Stars are rechristened as Theory. Equilibrium and Efficiency theories are eulogised in a world of Entropy. Miraculously, chaos and order are confused almost perfectly.

Adherents wilfully suspend (dis)belief and independent judgment and intriguingly, welcome the opportunity of paying for this privilege. The experts meanwhile conjure up one prediction after another, without attaching a time-frame within which their prognostications would apply. When Lady Luck courts them, the practitioners are quick to partake in the credit. In this respect, they are similar to their Astrologer brethren.

As with Astrology, these morphs attribute failure to the Stars. The practitioners themselves are irreproachable sages, often being rewarded richly for achieving failure. In some cases, failure is a non-negotiable passport to more lucrative assignments. Considering the repeated engagements of such artists specialising in failure, the world, in the very least, cannot be faulted for being unprepared for the eventuality.

How many areas can you think of that reward practitioners, repeatedly and handsomely, for failing spectacularly?

So, here is a modest proposal.

Given this history of organised failure, ways to turn blundering predictions into useful outcomes ought to be thought of. When years of solicitations for predicting correctness has ended in failure, the opposite course of action is likely to be successful. With this in mind, a fool-proof method of hitting upon useful (and correct) prognosis is to pay the mavens to accomplish the opposite. In channeling their vast industriousness in the pursuit of failure lies the mantra for success. Once diligent and reasonable basis in incorrectness becomes the norm, pretentious prognosticators would be eradicated, leaving the arena to the truly successful Mavens of Failure.

Failing is a tough art, learnt through years of rigour and intense resourcefulness. Expecting to be recompensed handsomely for these efforts is, therefore, not an immodest expection. It is likely that in following the suggested course of action, many mavens would (un)fortunately lose their Banking jobs – Central and Investment – but they would find this alternative a(n) (en)viable proposition. As for the Astrologers, in putting together marriages that end at the Lawyer’s, they would finally be doing justice to the evolutionary rule of sympatric mating.

What about the failures among the Failures?

Occupy Wall Street is alive and well.