29 January 2015

Question of The Day, 2015--01-29

Is it just me, or does the proliferation of native platforms as well as browsers, lead to the inevitable conclusion that it makes much more sense to treat the client platform as a generic display screen (aka, everything's a VT-100), and keep the intelligence in the datastore?

About That Other Shoe, Part the Second

I guess I'm not alone. Now, R commercialists are making the argument that M$ should put R in the database. Mind, Joe Conway did it first, so far as I know, with PL/R in PG. He could do that, and all by his lonesome, since Postgres supports user-defined functions in C. And, since R has hooks in C, the "R" language is just nomenclature for yet another C hook. Not all databases, oddly, support C. I suppose it's a security thing, since the bulk of databases these days are C, with I suspect some remnants of assembler (likely in-line). A cwaffty wabbit might be able to subvert the engine through the interface. You'd have to ask the engine writers how big a deal that might be.

What's even more interesting is that the poster left out:
PL/R itself
Netezza (and DB2, sorta) with Revo R
HANA with R (apparently, more than one way)
DB2 with some of SAS (boy howdy that's gotta cost!)

As Sony & Cher (mostly, Cher) put it, "and the beat goes on".

And, just for yucks, have a look at the PG databases that exist by different names. And some tweaks, I'll admit.

24 January 2015

About That Other Shoe

Well, it's just fallen. M$ has eaten Revolution Analytics!!! This was predicted here first. Ok, so I didn't say M$ would eat Revolution, but I did make it clear that M$ needed to get SS some real stat support.
This acquisition will help customers use advanced analytics within Microsoft data platforms...

Does that mean M$ will build a PL/R work-alike? One hopes they realize that's the true value add.

23 January 2015

The End of the Road, Part the Second

It was some time ago, in fact my SlickEdit told me I had already a file with the title (I had forgotten, and fortunately tried the same title. phew.), that "The End of the Road" appeared in these endeavors. And the last offering made reference to the subject with the words, "we humans are on the ever flattening asymptote of knowledge of the real world". Both pieces sprang from some part of the lower brain stem of memory. I always suspected that some famous writer had figured it out. But, try as I might, I never found patient zero, so to speak.

Well, I tried again a few minutes ago, and there it was, right at the top of the search list. Damn. That's patient zero from the point of view of nowadays innterTubes. The piece is a ten year retrospective of his book, "The End of Science". I recall reading neither before typing the first End of the Road piece. The book was the better part of two decades ago, so it is possible that I've read it. If so, lost to the bowels of that lower brain stem.

The arguments in his 10 year article are completely in line with my conclusion. For the quants out there, it matters for this reason. Economic evolution, particularly in the USofA in the 19th century through WWII, was built on resource discovery, exploitation of said resources, and scientific expansion of knowledge to make further use of said resources. Without them stuff in the ground, we'd still be hunter-gatherers on the plains. You may notice that there are places on the planet without them stuff in the ground, and the folks live pretty much as hunter-gatherers. It's not that they're backward. It's that Mother Earth gives them so little.

Without the science and engineering of organic chemistry, including figuring out the periodic table and such, that black goo at Titusville would be no more than nasty dirt on Momma's carpet. But we know all that now. Back then, scientists knew that they didn't know what physical matter consisted of. It was this ignorance that propelled us to the Bohr model. That was 1913; a rather long time ago.

While Horgan never uses these words, the point of new discovery in science or engineering is whether there will be commercial use of same. In the 19th century, sure. Today, not so much.

Here's a history of element discovery. Note how dominant the 19th century is. One could argue that plutonium (1940) was the last element of consequence. Boom?

For the macros, what all this means: that rising tide isn't out there anymore. Tracing economic history up to 1950, mid-century, or perhaps to 1970, one could argue that progress in science and engineering led to old materials, methods, and product being displaced by newer. And thus, expanding economies and employment. That's not true now. Ok, some might waffle and say, "not so much". The point is: new science and engineering means new industries. Name one since WWII? You can't. All you can do is name industries that have been miniaturized by silicon and software. The growing industry is finance, and that's a zero-sum game (or less, if CDSs dominate); skimming its revenue and profit off the real economy.

Under My Thumb

Since I live in South Butt Plug, CT and grew up in western MA, I'm supposed to cleave to all things sports of Boston. Problem is, I can't stand the B boys of Foxborough. But DeflateGate does offer the opportunity to chime in a bit. So, three points.

1) Both B boys are known control freaks. That Bill never, ever considered ball hardness is laughable, considering that he pontificated at great length on the manners of degrading practice balls. Change pressure to make life difficult, along with the other silliness? He never thought of it? Yeah, right.

2) Tommy boy can tell the difference between 13.5 (which he doesn't like) and 12.5 (which he loves). And never noticed a 2.5 pound drop? Yeah, right.

3) And the officials never caught on? Well, that's entirely likely. If you've watched the refs, you'll note that they don't grab the ball and throw it a la Tommy boy: grip it palm down, over the ball, and throw overhand. They don't. They hold, really cradle, the ball palm up and spin-toss no harder than slow-pitch softball. So, no, they'd likely not notice.

22 January 2015

Ain't No Science Like Old Science

What has become a recurring theme, or warning, in these endeavors: it is foolish to view the future as pure extension of the past. This is particularly true of anything science or engineering related. As I have described more than once (and referenced the writings of those more famous than I), we humans are on the ever flattening asymptote of knowledge of the real world. We already know, pretty much, exactly how the (macro) world works. We even know, pretty much, how the molecular (atomic) world works. We may have some things to learn about the cosmologic and sub-atomic worlds, but I'm not sure even there that anything we do learn will be economically significant. The upshot of that: there are fewer and fewer groundbreaking discoveries to be discovered. In other words: those quants/micros out there thinking they can extend their financial models based on the last X years in Y industry are morons. It ain't 1850 with a vast land of resources and new science to be uncovered.

There is no Mr. Fusion sitting the back of a DeLorean in our collective future.

One the sectors of the economy I find fascinating, which perplexes me still since I abhored biology in high school and never took such a class in college, is biopharma (or, whatever they call it these days). There are two aspects of the sector which have emerged in the last few years. One is the exploitation of the orphan drug act, where companies spend money to garner approval for drugs which may, or may not, make much difference to patients with "rare" diseases (the legal definition makes rare not so rare; that's part of the problem) at exorbitant prices. The HepC arena is gaga over the issue as we speak. And, how much of that accounting number assigned to a drug's existence was actually spent in the lab? Hmmm?

The other, more pernicious perhaps, is the active destruction of what R&D is left in companies as motivation for M&A. Derek Lowe (who merely has some of his blogging copied) has a piece on SA today, bemoaning recent events. One of the excuses given, no cite off the top of my head on offer, for the rush to China for manufacturing is that the USofA no longer has the feeder companies necessary to support large scale assembly/manufacturing, and China does. Of course, which is the chicken and which the egg? Here in South Butt Plug CT, the small metal working companies died out when the large companies to which they had been selling decamped for The Red States and The Red Country. It wasn't the other way around.

Turning all American corporations into financial firms will, sooner or later (and, be prepared for sooner) fail. Financial services is merely a matter of moving moolah from one pocket to another, or robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is non-productive. All value derives from some underlying activity. All finance profit derives from skimming off some part of that activity's value. We saw with the Great Recession that moving massive amounts of capital to housing failed because the underlying "asset" produces no saleable product, so the vig had to be paid out of the real earnings of mortgage holders. Since said earnings have been, at best, stagnant for at least a couple of decades, the whole edifice had to fall. The banksters got to keep most of what they'd taken, of course. The large builders made out like bandits, since they got the moolah up front. Once sold, the house and mortgage were somebody else's problem.

For the STEM folks? Well, some say we should be making more of them in school. But, why would a kid sign up for the brain warping hell of electrical engineering, in the face of such jobs being shipped to India (or some such)? The alternative, of course, is to do Business Administration and learn how to design the next liar loan!! Not so much strain on the brain cells, and lots more moolah for the effort. Kids may be high on dope all day, but that doesn't mean they have lost all touch with reality. They, by and large, aren't dumb enough to take out loans (which all but the top .001% of students have to) to learn an occupation which will never employ them. And, we know what happens when a country generates more STEM graduates than it has jobs for: Eastern Europe is the center of cyber crime for a reason.

Obambi said that all kids should learn to code? Yeah, right. Just what we need; a bunch of kids dreaming of grabbing the brass ring (look it up) of WhatsApp (they'll end up finding their wage driven down by IIT kids in Mumbai). Could that be worse than dreaming up liar loans? Or will we just build a domestic cyber mafia? Stay tuned.

14 January 2015

I've Been Modelled

OK, so that's a lame pun on an age-old de-acronyming of IBM: I've Been Moved. That was in the time when account executives were essentially itinerant peddlers, since promotion meant relo. Not so much now.

But, hot off the presses, and it will take a bit of time to waddle through all the pubs, it appears that Big Blue has done the stat engine in database thingee with SPSS (and, may be, Watson) in the just announced z13. I'd rather R on Power, but ya can't have everything. But CICS.... IT LIVES!!!! BWAHAHAHAHAH.