Linux and the financial crisis

On December 2007, the New York Stock Exchange adopted Linux. In late August 2008, we saw one of the worse worldwide stock market crash of the last hundred years. This crisis was not predicted by mainstream economists and experts. It took them by surprise and it took weeks or months before an explanation could emerge. Even to this day, there is much debate about what really caused the crisis and what makes the recovery so difficult.

The financial industry is out-innovating regulators, experts and common investors. For years, the financial industry hired the best hackers it could find. They have a sizable share of the most creative and smart engineers on the planet. And Linux is one of their favorite tools. It is not difficult to understand:  you can literally rewrite, or help rewrite, the Linux kernel. Today,  Wall Street runs on Linux and it thrives thanks to its elite programmers.

Are you sad to see the best minds working in finance? Isaac Newton concluded his career as Director of the Mint, where he greatly improved the finances of England. Back then, the British currency was badly debased. Newton brought back confidence.

Maybe we need to recruit Linus Torvalds to fix the financial industry? The Wall Street hackers would listen to him and the bankers could not ignore the man who gave his name to their operating system. I am not kidding: we desperately need very clever people in the financial industry.

Credit: I was inspired by a side remark made by Ho-Sheng Hsiao.

Published by

Daniel Lemire

A computer science professor at the University of Quebec (TELUQ).

7 thoughts on “Linux and the financial crisis”

  1. Clever people are working in the financial industry, but they do not seem to be working on the regulatory side, like Newton did. Instead, they are on the “evade regulation” side.

  2. Looks like I didn’t write out that blog post in time. I didn’t make a connection between the Wall Street crash and the increase in tempo. That would be an interesting paper to read.

    (Your Turing test is also an anti-gollumization test).

  3. We have to be careful when we say we need more regulation (Americans).ie: It was government’s involvement in the real-estate market that helped cause the crash in that industry. Not everyone deserves a government backed mortgage on a home that exceeds their financial grasp. This only allowed corrupt businessmen to simply give everyone loans knowing the government was going to pay off the debt regardless. Politicians don’t care, they just come up with slogans “every gets a home” so they can collect more votes while at the same time getting payouts from the banks raping everyone. Capitalism and free markets always get the blame, but really its corporatism in conjunction with politicians that are completely to blame. Although Linus is certainly more honest and intelligent then many (if not all) of the powers that be which control/manage the US’s financial systems, I kind of feel he would have a much to social approach and would call for even more government control and regulations. For most Americans that would probably be to much to swallow. If you are to lenient, you open the flood gates for people who want to take advantage of others. That is understood, but If everything is to highly controlled and regulated by the government, that only leads one direction. Total control by the government. Then its just a matter of WHEN the next corrupt politician comes around to muck things up even worse. I would rather deal with a dirty business who has no barring on my civil liberties then a dirty politician who could potentially tell me what I can and can’t do. This is just my opinion. Linus’s political standing is a question to me. I could be completely wrong and he could be capitalist enthusiast for all I know. Forgive my generalization. I am just assuming he is very liberal given his upbringing.

  4. @conalmc

    (1) Corporations exist, in the first place, only through government regulations. They are creatures of the government. There is no such thing as a corporation without a government.

    (2) There is a difference between regulations, and big government. Even hard-core libertarians are in favor of regulations, though they may call them contracts. The basic idea is that without some ground rules, there cannot be prosperity. Pure anarchy leads to misery and poverty.

    (3) I will argue that the Canadian system, where there is a lot of regulations on banks, is preferable and more libertarian than the American system where banks can do what they want (it seems) but they get bailed out when they are in trouble, as long as they are big enough to crash the system.

    Any corporation big enough to crash the system should be heavily regulated. This is far preferable to bailouts.

  5. @Daniel Lemire

    Thanks captain obvious. Of course there needs to be some regulation. Gone are the days where we traded rocks for sea shells…Although even cave men/women I am sure had some kind of ethical instincts regarding trade right?. I will have to ask my neighborhood anthropologist…I’m not talking about looking the other way if Bill Gates decides to open a bunch of over heated sweat shops full of Indian minors all over the country. What I am saying is that law makers who make laws (allegedly that’s what they do) & regulations that affect the business world need to be far more careful and more importantly far less selfish. Thus my opening statement about being careful.
    Corporations exist because people want to do business and quite often with other people. Imagine that. The whole legal and regulatory entity which the word corporation is used, only exists BECAUSE people want to do business with other people…Maybe its different in Canada, where the government has more control over who does business, but in the US I believe you have it backwards. The bottom line is that people need to stop being ASSHOLES to each other.Then there wouldn’t be any need for regulations…right?

  6. @conalmc

    I did not mean to insult you. I agree with you and I liked your comment. I gave it much thought. I was simply adding some precisions.

    What I am saying is that law makers who make laws (allegedly that’s what they do) & regulations that affect the business world need to be far more careful and more importantly far less selfish.

    I agree.

    Corporations exist because people want to do business and quite often with other people. Imagine that.

    Corporatism is a relatively recent phenomenon (17th or 18th century, in Europe).

    It used to be that people dealt with other people. If you screwed people over, it was your (personal) reputation that was on the line. There are still many small shops and enterprises that work this way, based on individual reputations.

    These days, you may work for a corporation that misbehaved, but you are insulated from the social burden.

    Short of getting rid of corporations, I think we need pretty strict regulations to infuse ethical considerations into them.

    (I’d be much happier if I knew how to make corporations go away. I hate regulations.)

  7. Smartness alone is not that useful in our current system to get some power. I think it’s quite the opposite, smartness is seen as a dangerous trait for those in power. Instead, loyalty to the ones who can give you power is much more rewarded.

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