Saturday, August 26, 2006

Noosa Equilibrium

In the mid-eighteenth century Scottish philosopher Adam Smith posited a theory that individuals acting in their own interests produce a benefit to their whole community. This became one of the main building blocks of modern economics and western capitalism. Incredibly, it was another two hundred years before American mathematician John Forbes Nash had a ‘hang on a minute' moment and came up with his Nobel winning Nash Equilibrium. There’s an impenetrable mathematical equation that goes with it, but you don’t really need it because the logic is so obvious.

If you saw the film A Beautiful Mind, you’ll remember Nash’s epiphany where he recognises that a group of men pursuing a single primary objective (impossibly beautiful woman) cancel each other out. If they co-operate, and each go for one of her less glamorous friends, they don’t get in each other’s way and everybody wins. (Except the impossible beauty but nobody’s losing sleep over her).

Messrs Blair, Brown et al need to do some math because they still seem to think that what benefits their greedy friends is good for the rest of us. It doesn’t matter how badly they get fleeced or how many of these pals get exposed for gross incompetence or bold-faced theft. The nodding and grinning and unabashed glad-handing continues.

The perilous state of iSoft, the company contracted to upgrade the NHS’s computer system is simply the latest in a long line of egg-on-face balls-ups involving contracting with the private sector. Whereas the Tories whiled away their years in parliament getting to know the ins and outs of the sex trade and sniggeringly collecting up brown envelopes stuffed with fifties, the present incumbents are getting themselves mixed up with an entirely more dangerous crowd and putting the silverware at much higher risk than their idiot predecessors ever did.

Lap-dancing strippers have been replaced by asset strippers. This week it was reported that iSoft’s three founders made £81m between them in share sales. That’s just £20m less than the company’s current stock market value. Government may be collectively suffering from Stockholm Syndrome in which an abused party develops sympathy, even admiration for its abuser. Value to the community – a very high negative number.

I have a mind to posit a game theory of my own. This I will call Noosa Equilibrium. This theory is based on the certain knowledge that everyone in the world means you harm. Strangers phone you on a daily basis to attempt to persuade you to alter your already unmanageable domestic administration arrangements. ‘Don’t you want to save money, Ms Lee?’ What for? Some evil bastard is only going to skim it next time I use my cash card. Money just makes you a target. Friends call only to find out whether you’ve finally gone completely mad – admittedly they’ve been waiting an unreasonable amount of time for this to happen. Any transaction involving other people is fraught. Check-out people in supermarkets try to give you computer vouchers for children and grandchildren (arrgghh) you don’t have. I could go on but I want to watch Dynasty : The Reunion on TV - at least someone out there is considering the needs of others for once.

Noosa Equilibrium works like this: you co-operate with the world in absentia. Stay away from everyone, absolutely all humans. Have everything delivered. Don’t complain unless there is really no choice, e.g. if Abel and Cole kick your front door in to deliver your organic box instead of knocking and waiting a decent interval for you to answer. They are after all supposed to be an ethical company. Spend all day reading, preferably someone you aren’t likely to disagree with. Newspapers are obviously not recommended. Don’t answer the phone, ever.

Like Nash Equilibrium, everyone benefits but in the opposite way, if you see what I mean. I am saved having to consider daft questions about subjects in which I am not vaguely interested and the enquirer is spared a lashing by my acerbic wit. Suggestions for appropriate mathematical equations may be delivered via comments. Now, if you will excuse me, I have a date with some very serious shoulder pads.

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