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Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Rich Cooper" <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 7 Nov 2011 13:52:05 -0800
Message-id: <822EC66ADE8148A8A55086F6A26EA37E@Gateway>

Dear Ali,


Your conclusion:


Any account of self interest that ignores how power, information and access mitigate or effect it will be missing a big piece of the puzzle.


seems reasonable, but that part is not self interest; it is the set of choices that are available to each individual.  Generally, the wider and more comprehensive the set of available choices, the better the individual can find a choice to maximize her self interest.  Think of the difference between potential (i.e. voltage) and actual (i.e. current) – both are needed to actually implement a choice, but knowing which choice of the available ones to make is the issue of self interest. 


Power, information and access are, as you point out, major influences on the outcome of anybody’s self interest when actually applied.  But I am still working on the more modest goal of how to understand and represent self interest in an effective way.  I will worry about the available choices after I get a workable model of self interest. 


Thanks for your insights,




Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2

From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Ali SH
Sent: Monday, November 07, 2011 1:37 PM
To: Rich Cooper; [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology


On Mon, Nov 7, 2011 at 4:09 PM, Rich Cooper <rich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Global financial crisis (GFC)?  That was based on far more complicated issues than JUST self interest.  It is also way past my pay grade to try to explain why the GFC occurred.  I am simply trying to work on the AI issue of embodied self interested agents. 

Odd, this article would seem to claim it largely came down to unrestrained self interest in combination with imbalances of power, imbalances of information, and imbalances of access (to both)... 



[The Atlantic wrote:] But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity: elite business interests—financiers, in the case of the U.S.—played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.
In a society that celebrates the idea of making money, it was easy to infer that the interests of the financial sector were the same as the interests of the country—and that the winners in the financial sector knew better what was good for America than did the career civil servants in Washington. Faith in free financial markets grew into conventional wisdom—trumpeted on the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and on the floor of Congress.
But it was never clear (and still isn’t) what combination of interests was being served, and how. Treasury and the Fed did not act according to any publicly articulated principles, but just worked out a transaction and claimed it was the best that could be done under the circumstances. This was late-night, backroom dealing, pure and simple.


Throughout the crisis, the government has taken extreme care not to upset the interests of the financial institutions, or to question the basic outlines of the system that got us here. In September 2008, Henry Paulson asked Congress for $700 billion to buy toxic assets from banks, with no strings attached and no judicial review of his purchase decisions. Many observers suspected that the purpose was to overpay for those assets and thereby take the problem off the banks’ hands—indeed, that is the only way that buying toxic assets would have helped anything. Perhaps because there was no way to make such a blatant subsidy politically acceptable, that plan was shelved.


Any account of self interest that ignores how power, information and access mitigate or effect it will be missing a big piece of the puzzle.



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