Unemployement is great!

I really love being unemployed.

Yesterday was great.

I spent the morning with a geek friend. We talked about distributed build systems (like CPAN, or Freebsd’s ports – Where is the survey article on these?), the build recipes, the contracts for the ingredients, the naming of components. “Mix in one library of PNG kind conforming to API spec PNG std Foo minus these routines (which by the way nobody ever implements right) but with this variation (which by the way everybody does because, well it’s useless without that).” We talked about algorithms for finding clusters in graphs; marvelous computational intense algorithms. We talked about diffuse peer to peer networks for distributed assertions injected by anonymous untrusted agents around the perimeter. We talked about how Php makes it so easy to create your first web page and how Python makes it so hard. What fun!

Then it was off to a room at Harvard with expensive chairs, wood paneling, matures trees russled outside the windows to a “conversation” about (take a deep breath): “From Personal to Impersonal Trusted Exchange in Physical and Digital Domains An Evolutionary Perspective.”

There, Kevin McCabe, told three fun stories. Here’s the first one.

Experiment. Subjects are paired up, call them Alice and Bob to participate in a game, but they remain totally anonymous. Alice and Bob get 10$ for showing up for the experiment. Alice is offered an option. She can take portion of her 10$ and stuff it in an envelope to send to Bob. But wait! The amount she puts in the envelope will be tripled before it get’s to Bob. Alice is told one more thing. Bob will have the chance to send a portion of the money he receives back to her.

Later Bob gets an envelope from Alice, maybe with some money it it. He too is presented with an option; the option of what to put in the envelope that goes back to Alice. He keeps the rest.

One way to look at this experiment – what’s it cost the experimenter? The minimum cost to the experimenter is 20$ the maximum is 40$. After the experiment Alice and Bob have split the 20$ to 40$ dollars. Lots of words got thrown about: Alice is optimistic/pessimistic or trusts/distrusts Bob. Bob is rational. Bob reciprocates. Apparently if Bob is a graduate student in economics Alice is much more likely to get an empty envelope back. The rest of us are apparently more optimistic about our fellow man more likely reciprocate acts of trust.

There as a lot of discussion about eBay.

The sprit of the stairwell would like me to post these questions:

  • What is the comparative value of these various kinds of reputation: eBay – 1000 feedbacks 97.8% positive; Apache Software Foundation membership; tenure at Harvard.
  • Is reputation fungible?
  • Who owns reputation; the individual or the institution?
  • Can the institution sell it, i.e. can eBay sell my reputation data?
  • If economists know that trade barriers are bad should we strive to make reputation more fungible
  • Reputation exchange rates? Reputation Euro?

It’s fun being unemployed, but I doubt this is a sustainable business model.

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