January 29, 2018

If you pick the wrong data stream, as bank regulators did, real tragedies can happen

Sir, Rana Foroohar writes: “The ability of a range of companies — in insurance, healthcare, retail and consumer goods — to personalise almost every kind of product and service based on data streams is not just a business model shift. It is a fundamental challenge to liberal democracy.” “Digital democracy is dangerous” January

Yesterday I received the following message from Amazon: “Based on your recent activity, we thought you might be interested in: The Complete Guide to Building with Rocks & Stone: Stonework Projects and Techniques”. Since, at least after the age of eight, I am absolutely sure I have never harbored any intention, much less a burning desire, to build with Rocks & Stone, I suppose that, in terms of using the correct data streams, they business are not really there yet. Neither are bank regulators, though that has much more serious consequences than me not clicking on that book.

Foroohar writes: “Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor at the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon, [has] launched a project to educate elementary school children about the power of data, its risks and rewards, and how to use it to advocate for themselves.”

Great! I hope professor Nourbakhsh makes a case of explaining to the young that the regulators, when setting their current risk weighted capital requirements for banks, used the data about the riskiness of assets, and not the data about what risks those assets posed to the bank system. Had they picked the correct data stream, they would never ever have assigned a minimal risk-weight of 20% to what, perceived so safe as to be rated AAA, could be truly dangerous, and 150% to what, being perceived so risky so as to validate a below BB- rating, is totally innocous.

And then the professor could also, if he dares, explain to these youngsters that these perceived risk adverse regulations now have banks solely refinancing and extracting all value from the “safer” present economy; and not financing the “risky” future that they as young need to be financed, if they are going to have a reasonable future.