Sunday, May 31, 2015

Eight Hundred Years of the Magna Carta

The Magna Carta was signed on June 15, 1215, eight hundred years next month.  We in Texas look from our Texas Revolution to the American Revolution for inspiration,  Our country's founding fathers looked to the Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 for inspiration.  We need to remember the  importance of the Magna Carta as we map the future for Texas and America:  the importance of a government constrained by laws for the protection of our liberties.

The Wall Street Journal had a wonderful article about the Magna Carta that you can read by googling "Magna Carta: Eight Centuries of Liberty by Daniel Hannan."

Here are a few quotes from the lengthy article to whet your appetite: 

The idea of the law coming up from the people, rather than down from the government, is a peculiar feature of the Anglosphere.

America’s Founders ... saw parliamentary government not as an expression of majority rule but as a guarantor of individual freedom. How different was the Continental tradition, born 13 years later with the French Revolution, which saw elected assemblies as the embodiment of what Rousseau called the “general will” of the people.

In that difference, we may perhaps discern explanation of why the Anglosphere resisted the chronic bouts of authoritarianism to which most other Western countries were prone.

The defense of liberty is your job and mine. It is up to us to keep intact the freedoms we inherited from our parents and to pass them on securely to our children.

And who is Daniel Hannan?  Mr. Hannan is a British member of the European Parliament for the Conservative Party, a columnist for the Washington Examiner and the author of “Inventing Freedom: How the English-speaking Peoples Made the Modern World.”

A great Texas must be built upon the rule of law.  Texas needs great lawyers and statesmen.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Special Methods Software Project

I have suggested a number of projects that can contribute to software development and economic growth in the state of Texas.  I mentioned the  Special Methods Software Project when I laid out the Texas Software Initiative, but I did not define it then.  There are a number of specialty areas in computer science that can have economic impact, but are little studied and have limited use.  However, the impact of special methods can be significant.  Here is a short list of special topics.

  1. Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems
  2. Autonomous Agents
  3. Cellular Automata Software
  4. Genetic Algorithms
  5. Complexity Theory

This list is not exclusive, and not be any means exhaustive, but it is a starting point for discussion.  Google's self-driving car is an example of an autonomous agent.  Some people think the Google car can reduce traffic jams and save lives by reducing the effects of bad driving.  Some people think it is part of a plan to replace truck drivers with robots, throwing more people out of work.  Software certainly has an impact on our society.

I can recommend a good book as a start into the field complexity:  Complexity: A Guided Tour by Melanie Mitchell.  I have read it from cover-to-cover and found it fascinating.  This book by Dr. Mitchell is intended for the general audience and I found it at the public library. 

Another book that is interesting, although a bit quirky, is The Sciences of the Artificial by Herbert Simon.  This book by Dr. Simon does not use advance math, so in a sense it is accessible to the general reader. On the other hand, you are getting access to the mind of a brilliant man.  This is a treat, but you must be patient and follow him where he goes. I like to hold a book in my hand, so it is nice to know you can buy a copy from  But if you are not sure about this book, you can peruse a PDF copy before buying a paperback copy.

Why take the time to be patient with Herbert Simon's book?  Let's consider just a few of his honors:
  1. Turing Award (1975)
  2. Nobel Prize in Economics (1978)
  3. von Neumann Theory Prize (1988)
Dr. Simon was is an intellectual heavyweight, but this is book is accessible.  Here is a quote from the preface to "The Sciences of the Artificial:" 
"... of particular relevance is the recent vigorous eruption of interest in complexity and complex systems. In the previous editions of this book I commented only briefly on the relation between general ideas about complexity and the particular hierarchic form of complexity with which the book is chiefly concerned. I now introduce a new chapter to remedy this deficit. It will appear that the devotees of complexity (among whom I count myself) are a rather motley crew, not at all unified in our views on reductionism. Various among us favor quite different tools for analyzing complexity and speak nowadays of "chaos," "adaptive systems," and "genetic algorithms." In the new chapter 7, "Alternative Views of  Complexity'' ("The Architecture of Complexity" having become chapter 8), I sort out these themes and draw out the implications of artificiality and hierarchy for complexity."

These specialty software topics are fascinating and can contribute economically to the state of Texas.

This post is part of the The Texas Software Initiative.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Future With No Economic Growth?

Here is an article about a citizen of Japan, Masaru Kosaka, who believes it is possible to have a happy life in an economy with no economic growth:  "Japan May Be In A Post-Growth Era, With Or Without Abe" by Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, December 12, 2014.  The reference to Abe in the title is Shinzo Abe, Japan's Prime Minister, who has been struggling to boost economic growth in Japan.

As I have suggested before, the key economic challenge of our time is maintaining economic growth without population growth.  The last article I wrote on this topic was:  Sustainable Growth and a Synthetic Economy (Sunday, December 1, 2013).


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sustainable Growth and a Synthetic Economy

Unlimited  population growth is unsustainable.  We cannot sustain an infinite population on a planet with finite resources.  Some countries are already facing a population decline as the birthrate drops.  People are manifesting an instinct to dampen population growth, but governments are trying to counter this natural decline in population growth.  Governments either provide incentives like the French to make child rearing less expensive for parents, or use immigration like the USA and England to boost population growth.  Our economies at present depend on a growing population to fuel economic growth.  Based on current economic understanding, a stable, sustainable population would lead to economic stagnation.

When you hear about sustainability, usually it is in the context of reducing consumption to compensate for a growing population  What we need instead of conservation is to let population growth flatten and then stop, but we do not know how to run national economies with zero population growth.  I started thinking about economic growth without population growth back in 2008.  In 2012 I suggested a simulated economy consisting of simulated consumers and producers, simulated goods and currency could grow without the constraints of limited population and resources.  I suggested in 2012 that it would be tricky to transfer simulated (synthetic) money into the real world.  I also suggested that financial derivatives were actually instruments of a simulated economy, with the wealth from derivatives being treated as though it is real wealth instead of synthetic wealth, potentially debasing our currency.

In 2013 we can see more confusion between real and simulated economies as virtual currencies like Bitcoin receive increased attention. There are newspaper articles asking if you should have some Bitcoins in your investment portfolio.  Let us remember auction rate securities.  They were used for decades by investors, then failed in the 2008 banking crisis.  Auction rate securities were more real than virtual currencies like Bitcoin, but eventually fell apart as investments.  There will probably be a speculative bubble for Bitcoin, but it will turn to tears.

If we developed synthetic, simulated economies rationally we could debate the transition of synthetic wealth into real currency and plan the move of simulated money into the real world.  Instead, some players in the economy are going straight to the fabrication of simulated wealth and are attempting to move this simulated wealth into our economy behind our backs.

I had envisioned algorithms that created music through artificial intelligence.  I envisioned simulated musicians selling algorithmically developed music to simulated consumers.  We would own crowds of simulated consumers that would vote on the music they liked.  Real people would sample the outputs occasionally and select algorithmically developed music to move into the real world to sell to real people.  A synthetic economy can be created rationally.  I have heard that marketing firms will provide an artist with a crowd of artificial followers on Twitter.  Elements of a simulated economy are forming.

However, instead of a rationally developed new economy of simulated or synthetic growth, we have clever people manipulating our economic system to fabricate money out of thin air.  Besides Bitcoin and derivatives, consider the Quantitative Easing program.  Here is a brief explanation of quantitative easing (QE) from the Financial Times:  "...the most important step in QE is that the central bank creates new money for use in an economy. Only a central bank can do this because its money is accepted as payment by everybody.  Sometimes dubbed incorrectly "printing money" a central bank simply creates new money at the stroke of a computer key, in effect increasing the credit in its own bank account."

If we are not careful, the mixing of synthetic wealth with real wealth can dilute the value of the dollar and diminish our savings and investments. The pressures of a simulated economy are building and wanting to spring into creation, but the best parts are being over-looked while the most dangerous parts of synthetic wealth creation are being introduced into our economy without adequate public debate.  You might think a simulated economy is science fiction.  I think that synthetic wealth creation is a Frankenstein's monster.

We need to pay attention before it is too late.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Government's Role in Innovation

A website called SFGate ran a story recently on innovation:  The hypocrisy in Silicon Valley's big talk on innovation by James Temple (Sunday, March 10, 2013). 

The article by Mr. Temple included this quote:
"None of this argues for government keeping its nose out of the business of innovation, it makes the case for it taking a leading role - for leveraging its unique position to address these obvious market failures. Only governments had the long view and available cash to fund things like supercolliders, deep space programs and - oh yeah - the development of the Internet."

As I mentioned in an earlier post [1], the best scientific innovation from the government is done by the U.S. military.  Generally speaking, the U.S. government should stay out of game of funding innovation for economic growth because the tendency is to provide pork-barrel funding.  Give the U.S. military adequate funding and leave it alone with regard to innovation and it will create what it needs and the result is technology with civilian uses that really drive economic growth, like computers and the internet.


[1]  Military Research Drives Economic Growth  Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Video Games are Big Business

Computer games and video games are big business.  The Wall Street Journal published "Minecraft Hits Mother Lode for a Small Swedish Company" by Matthew Lynley on Monday February 4, 2013 (p.B1).  The computer game Minecraft, created by Markus Persson in 2010 when he was in his 30's, has sold 20 million copies.  His company, Mojang A.B. in Stockholm, earned $90 million on revenue of $235 million last year.  His company employs only 29 people.  That is a lot of profit from a few people.

Video games and computer games are created by programmers.  I said in an earlier post, "Without domain knowledge, programmers either learn more programming minutia, or learn new languages, or write computer games."  There are successful software game companies in the DFW metroplex.

One of the creators of the game Words With Friends is Paul Bettner, a McKinney resident, who started a company, Newtoy Inc., in McKinney with his brother Dave after working at Microsoft.  Id Software, the creator of the game Doom, is headquartered in Richardson, Texas.

If people are going to create video games, I'd rather they do it in the Dallas metroplex than in Stockholm.  The Texas Young Programmers Project can contribute to creating the pool of skilled computer programmers necessary to grow DFW into a center for game development.

The money from successful software companies can spill over into other business enterprises.  Armadillo Aerospace was started by John Carmack from Id Software.  Mark Cuban sold his software company,, and invested in the Dallas Mavericks, among other things.  In 2011 the Mavs won the NBA championship.  Software entrepreneurs can be a source of synergistic economic growth to a community, so we should encourage and support software entrepreneurhip.


This post is part of the
The Texas Software Initiative  Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Texas Entrepreneurship Project

America needs more businesses to be created and nurtured to success.  Businesses are the vital organs in the body of capitalism.  There are not enough businesses in America putting people and capital to work.  The Wall Street Journal, on Tuesday July 17, 2012 (p. C3), ran this article:  "Lending Proves Both Boon and Bane for Banks," by Matthias Rieker.  The article contained this sentence:  "KeyCorp stock has lost half its value since the financial crisis, amid persistent questions about whether the company can find customers to lend to—and then turn those loans into profits." This is just one piece of evidence among many that our economy is starving for lack of business growth.

Banks are hoarding cash in part because they do not know what to do with it.  There is too much money and not enough investment opportunities.  One of the reasons collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) were created was because there are not enough business to absorb the vast amounts of capital available for investment.  (See Global Surplus Capital.)  We need more businesses.  People who start businesses are called entrepreneurs.  We need to educate and empower people  to start and grow businesses.  The initiative to educate and empower people in Texas to start and grow businesses I call the Texas Entrepreneurship Project

The Texas Software Initiative is intended to support business growth through software companies and products.

It is not enough for  people to start small business.  If we have a ten percent increase in independent contractors doing plumbing or air conditioning then we do not have the sizable investment opportunities that are sought by the truly wealthy who have billions of dollars to invest.  We need to understand what it takes to grow a business to billions of dollars of revenue, then we need to spread that information and develop the economic and financial infrastructure necessary to support large business growth. 

The Texas Entrepreneurship Project to educate and empower people to start and grow businesses begins with understanding and education.


I have in the past proposed a New Business Project:
The Cause of the Crash of 2008 and the New Business Project  Sunday, August 5, 2012
But I believe people interested in this topic are looking for the word "entrepreneurship," so I am re-naming this project.
The August 5 post includes links to related blog posts.