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Radio Sistema Tropical

Cardinal Points

Synthetic Analytics


Diego Azeta

14 May 2019

© 2019 Diego Azeta  ※  All Rights Reserved  ※  Derechos Reservados
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HELLO AND WELCOME to Cardinal Points. We are cheery as can be here at Radio Sistema Tropical because the criminal regime headed by that insolent incompetent, El Chumpo Trumpo, the brazenly manipulated marionette of the American neocon political mafia, suffered this week two back-to-back defeats on the geopolitical stage: a failure in their attempt to overthrow constitutionally elected President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela and an incredibly inept loss of opportunity to end sixty-nine years of warring with North Korea at the summit in Hanoi with Kim Jong-un, who had taken the initiative to normalize relations with the brutal warmongers. Chumpo, following orders, wrecked everything.

Teriaki: My goodness, Shahrazad! What has come over you!

Shahrazad: I can’t brook this idiot* anymore. He is vulgar, a thug, and a liar.

T: Even his once steadfast supporters assert that. On election night, I assumed Wacko Chumpo couldn’t be any worse than Crooked Hillary. Surprise!

S: But Grotty Hillary was too bitter a pill to swallow. Hideously hubristic!

T: Ugh! Repugnant! Bitcho murdered Seth Rich, gloated over Gaddafi’s cruel death, and disdainfully ranted of droning Assange. She would have committed the same crimes as Chumpo’s, taking her orders from the ruling apparatus.

S: These Clinton vipers have always been embroiled in suspicious murders.

T: Among innumerable other scandals. Immoral as well as illegal.

S: What Slick Willy did to young White House interns is bestially despicable.

T: The creep’s a depraved sicko. Metastasized psychosexual putrefaction.

S: Odd, is it not, that gringo honchos and wannabes are sickos or psychos.

T: Imperial decadence. Sociopathy bloomed with Gonzo Bonzo and it’s grown meaner since that morongonzo. Especially with the perfidious Diablo Bushito.

S: Diablito 9/11 is a traitor to his country and to his people. As is Barackito.

T: The assassin of Hugo Chávez. Not even Stinko Diablote stooped so low.

S: Is that why you rank him below Stinko on the honcho buncho totem pole?

T: That has a lot to do with it, yes. Sleazo 'Bama is low-down and dirty. A rat.

S: Behold the complete degeneration of America. Utterly rotted Amerika.

T: It was rotted from the get-go. Americans overlook their country’s ceaseless crimes against humanity and peace. Kids grow up thinking everything’s fine.

S: Rotten hypocrites. What do you say we dump this putrescence and discuss matters more agreeable to the senses? Especially to the inquiring intellect.

T: Stellar idea. Should I finish my exposition of mathematical programming?

S: Please, by all means, do.

T: Thank you. A brief recap: Cybernetics envisions a goal-seeking system as a set of modular units that perform input, processing, and output ―IPO― so as to attain a given goal. System control is achieved by feedback mechanisms that keep the system focused on its goal by regulating its inputs and, in some cases, its processes based on output threshold levels. MP, on the other hand, modifies this approach by using a feed-forward strategy instead of relying on feedback.

S: Try not to gain too much altitude, Teriaki.

T: Roger. MP programmes a course of action for the system before operations begin. That is a feed-forward control, as opposed to correcting deviations from standards when detected in system outputs, which is control by feedback.

S: Anticipatory versus reactive controls. Or should that be proactive controls?

T: Hey, hey, hey! A budding systems scientist here. Yes, anticipatory controls, the quintessence of systems analysis: one models the system of interest to learn how the thing works then designs an improved system based on those findings. The two stages, formally called analysis and synthesis, constitute the paradigm of the field, whose proper name is systems analysis and synthesis. People tend to omit the latter part of the name. Even regular practitioners, like me.

S: So systems analysis and synthesis is actually a problem-solving approach. A collection of techniques and procedures to solve complex problems in general.

T: Bound by the philosophy of systems thinking. It’s disciplined thinking.

S: Methodical thinking. It should therefore have wide applicability.

T: I would say its principles are universally applicable. Now LP, the linear MP component, determines, in addition to the optimal plan of action, supplemental information on the economic value of input resources used to produce outputs. This follows as a result of the mathematical structure of LP. Computationally, LP makes use of matrix algebra, so the worth of an additional unit of resource in terms of improving the system’s objective is correspondingly obtained.

S: Wonderful. That is useful information for business managers.

T: For managers of linear IPO systems of all kinds, not just businesses. Other MP variants handle nonlinear IPO systems. Now, the economic value of a unit of resource has two comparable interpretations. If one additional unit were to be acquired for use in production, its economic value represents the amount by which the metric that measures the system’s objective will improve.

S: Its marginal contribution to the objective function, economists call it.

T: Correct. But if an inventoried unit were to be lost, then the economic value of the resource represents the amount by which the objective’s metric worsens.

S: It quantifies the loss of opportunity incurred for not having that unit.

T: They teach good economics at Oxford’s PPE programme.

S: It’s okay. Good enough for government work.

T: Opportunity loss is a crucially important concept for decision making in all problem domains, not just in business and economics. Yet people are woefully ignorant of the concept almost everywhere. See how the Chumpo regime took a mammoth opportunity loss with North Korea without bothering to assess the strategic consequences of their moronic blunder beforehand. Incredibly stupid.

S: That’s because political opportunists operate on purely ideological terms.

T: Ideology will get you nowhere. It is not a problem-solving methodology.

S: Ideology is the platform required for effective demagoguery. Which is what political opportunists care about. To hell with rational solutions to problems.

T: Politics invariably amazes me; it’s the only field of human endeavour where the anointed ones are absolute imbeciles. Totally incomparably asinine.

S: The worst and the dumbest. Whether elected, appointed, or recruited.

T: Baboons. Now here is wonder: since the economic value of a resource unit has two kindred interpretations, marginal benefit and opportunity loss, and LP operates in an augmented vector space whose dimensionality is determined by the various output categories plus the structural constraints ordained by inputs, processes and environment, dimensions that are interchangeable, it follows that every LP model that, say, maximizes benefits has a matching dual model that minimizes opportunity losses. This finding was unexpected: every LP problem has an inverted-image doppelgänger, a dual. Can’t have one without the other.

S: Every LP model whatsoever? Regardless of the nature of the problem?

T: Regardless. Each problem has a mirror image of itself. It seems that Lewis Carroll’s wonderland within the looking glass is actually real, if rather abstract and intangible. It contains no mad Hatters. But it rules over physical reality.

S: I don’t quite understand you. I don’t know what you mean.

T: Let me explain. It is not possible to maximize benefits if opportunity losses are not at at the minimum possible point. That should be evident.

S: Agreed. Incurred opportunity losses imply unrealized potential benefits.

T: Correct. So the dual model, the inverted-image doppelgänger of the primal or original model, must have its objective pointing in the opposite direction of the primal: if one objective is Max, the other one must be Min. This holds true for any LP model, regardless, not just for benefits/opportunity loss problems.

S: That makes intuitive sense.

T: Now take a look at the constraints, the conditions that must be satisfied for the model’s solution to be valid. Structural constraints are system requirements that hamper goal attainment. In economic IPO systems, these typically include such things as limited availability of resources; strictures affecting processing, product specs, and quality standards; legal and contractual obligations; market competition challenges; financial restrictions; even ethical issues involving the system’s stakeholders: employees, customers, suppliers, the public at large…

S: Ah! That sounds majorly interesting: ethical constraints.

T: These tend to be swept under the rug in our unprincipled world. That has a cost, however: a precisely calculated, primal-dual complementary cost, I call it.

S: You must pay for your wicked perversions. Can’t fool Mother Nature.

T: Not if Nature conforms to symmetry. The reason is this: the primal model, when formulated by unscrupulous people, may be incomplete. Constraints that the unscrupulous want to ignore can be omitted from their decision making as well as from an LP model. Crooked politicos and dishonest business operators ―white-collar rogues― do this all the time, much to everyone’s exasperation.

S: Alas, they are not the only ones to do so.

T: Iniquity is a salient trait of Homo sapiens.

S: The nefarious pseudo-sapiens, who by hook or crook inherited the earth.

T: History ain’t over till its over. Prolonged inheritance seems questionable for the perennially belligerent, environmentally reckless, grossly deceitful Homo.

S: Sapiens.

T: I beg to differ. So Homo formulates every primal model, according to their wisdom or the lack of it. But it is Nature who determines the dual problem that corresponds to Homo’s possibly doctored depiction of the situation. For Nature always sets up the correct reflection image for every act carried out in physical reality, even if Homo has no bloody idea of what the heck is actually going on.

S: Ignorance is bliss.

T: It can also be a portal to imbecility. There’s nothing enigmatic about duals. In physical reality, every thing is systemically connected to everything else. It is we who conceive closed conjectural systems ―hypotheses, ideologies, lies― increasingly detached from reality to rationalize pet notions we insist are true.

S: The physically non-existent closed systems. Icons of the Galilean method.

T: Useful and effective in science. But one must stay alert to their limitations.

S: Sensible advice. Applicable to LP itself.

T: Undoubtedly, especially to its precarious primal models. I must restate this: In real-world decision making, a dual reflective problem corresponding to the primal situation always exists and provides the solution to both the true primal problem and itself. This dual rules over physical reality, not the primal model.

S: Deep. I see you’re making a strong distinction between model and problem.

T: A model is a representation of a problem, a construct. Problems are factual situations arising in physical reality. Analysts solve problems with models.

S: What about limits applicable to the dual models? Or are they exempt?

T: Certainly not. They are closed theoretical systems as well. We must keep in mind that models, including all scientific theories, are simplifications of reality and as such cannot capture every aspect and nuance of the real world. But they can, when constructed correctly, capture the essential aspects of interest to the analysts examining specific real-world systems. Such models are synthetical.

S: That is why science is successful within clearly circumscribed limits.

T: Indeed. The dual’s limits, and the primal’s as well, are really the limitations of LP itself, which are the following: First, LP models are linear. The problem here is that the world is by and large nonlinear. Just look out the window at the world around you and notice that most natural things ―trees, clouds, creatures galore, landscapes, whatever― show no straight lines or perfectly flat surfaces. Virtually all things exhibiting linear features are artificial objects: man-made.

S: I see the blue sea over yonder. Looks perfectly flat to me.

T: Gorda Peak is visible. Can you see any of the beaches of Virgin Gorda?

S: No, because of the earth’s curvature. You’re on your toes, Teriaki.

T: Thanks for setting up that example. LP is used frequently in economic and business problems because both are artificial domains full of linearities.

S: Can’t make business too complicated for sapient Homo, can we.

T: Pop quiz: State the evolutionary distance from baboons to sapient Homo.

S: Intellectually? Zilch!

T: We have a winner, folks.

S: We shouldn’t be so harsh on baboons, Teriaki.

T: Yeah. The world’s corridors of power are full of baboons. They must have done something clever to get there.

S: Clever as in tricky, perhaps?

T: Need you ask? MP provides several nonlinear programming algorithms for problems where linearity does not strictly hold. It is not always guaranteed that a global optimal solution can be found, though. In other words, the model may give Gorda Peak as a local optimum but never be able to find Mount Everest.

S: Bummer. I was expecting instant, absolute gratification from these models.

T: Ain’t no such thing in systems modelling. People are still forced to think.

S: Our baboons will take care of that.

T: That is what I am afraid of. Second limitation: Uncertainty. LP gives exact answers under the assumption that all parameters of the model are known with certainty. Parameters are the constants that appear in the equations and inequalities, that is, all the numbers that are used in the model. The real world, however, is steeped in uncertainty. No one knows what tomorrow will bring.

S: In the journey of life, everyone travels facing backwards.

T: Well put. Model parameters are really estimates of the quantities we believe will hold in the future when the processing is actually done. In the short term, these estimates tend to hold true. But as the term grows longer, variation in the parameters sets in. If the expected variation is minor, the analyst can generally manage it with sensitivity analysis, a part of the supplemental information the LP model provides. But if the expected variations are significant, LP may have to be discarded, replaced with an explicitly probabilistic modelling approach.

S: But these replacements, do they break with the philosophical underpinning of systems analysis? Are they still considered system-analytic models?

T: Oh, yes. We can employ such things as stochastic programming or decision analysis, which are important system-analytic tools. DA in particular abandons the vector-space conception of LP, yet the fundamental revelation of LP ―the existence of the primal-dual doppelgängers― arises in DA as well, except now couched in the language of probability theory.

S: That points to the independent reality of the mirror-image realm of duality. It shows that the dual is not just some quirky by-product of the matrix algebra of LP. The dual’s existence transcends the mathematics used to ascertain it.

T: Mathematics demands rigorous proofs, but your argument does support the thesis that dual problems are real and rule. Fine observation, Shahrazad. Third limitation: LP is a static model whereas the world is irrepressibly dynamic.

S: Can’t get the thing to sit still.

T: LP modelling is like taking still photographs of things that are continuously in motion. One gets a quick snapshot frozen in time. The problem here is that without a time dimension in its solution space, an LP model cannot portray the delayed consequences that affect the system due to complementary costs. One receives immediate quantitative measures about opportunity losses but no clue as to the range of blowbacks that complementary costs can engender.

S: Mm. Could you please be a bit more elucidative?

T: Of course. The amount of benefit one forfeits for not having made the best possible decision is an opportunity loss. A complementary cost is the “penalty” imposed by the dual problem on cheating baboons who ignore constraints such as ethical principles in an attempt to swindle people and snag ill-gotten gains.

S: Sounds rather karmic. Perhaps a concrete example would be helpful here.

T: Surely. But let me do this with a high-level example, something we humans can relate to more easily. We’ve had too many low-level technical abstractions.

S: Harder to grasp, yes. Makes me wonder if our listeners are still out there.

T: This should get them back. By the way, we’ve only skimmed the proverbial surface of the theory behind LP and analytical modelling, and quite informally at that. My complementary cost proposition extrapolates standard theory but is grounded on theoretical principles that have solid empirical confirmation.

S: An intriguing idea. Thank you for sharing your insight with us, Teriaki.

T: That’s what we’re here for, Shahrazad. I’ll begin by presenting the infamous Ford Pinto debacle, a classic case in the annals of distorted business ethics.

S: This was the car that burst into flames in slow-speed, rear-end collisions?

T: Correct. People burned alive in horrific road accidents the car maker knew were bound to happen before it sold its first model. Ford knew full well the gas tank, the petrol tank, would rupture. But instead of fixing the thing ―they had safer alternatives available― Ford cooked up a sham model to rationalize their ungodly fixation to sell the deathtrap. Damn the occupants, full speed ahead!

S: That is unconscionable! Criminally inhumane. How can anyone do that?

T: The legal term is negligent homicide. It happens all the time in the business world. In politics, murder is handled covertly. Dirty business and dirty politics.

S: Dirty bastards! Baboons is much too lenient for these soulless scumbags.

T: Actually, the two individuals chiefly responsible for this horror were widely acclaimed for their savvy in running the legendary manufacturer. Lee Iacocca shot to the presidency of the Ford Motor Company after several achievements that included developing the sporty Ford Mustang. The iconic Mustang revived the firm after the Edsel marketing disaster, which was not an Iacocca project.

S: Never again would Detroit name a marque after daddy.

T: Would’ve had a better chance of success had they named it the Henry.

S: Grandpas have a clear edge over dads in these things.

T: Yep. Iacocca trained as an engineer, so he knew what the rules of the game are for engineered systems: make it work, make it safe, make it affordable.

S: The hallmark of engineering since antiquity: efficacy, safety, efficiency.

T: The pyramids are still the reigning wonders of the world and some Roman aqueducts continue operating to this day. These engineers took the mandate of their profession seriously: they did things right. Pioneers of Drucker’s axiom.

S: Why did Iacocca neglect the time-honoured principles of his profession?

T: Because he had long renounced engineering to become a car salesman.

S: Isn’t that taking a big step backwards?

T: I’ve seen medical doctors turn lowly politicians. Some never turned back.

S: Preferred wallowing in the squalid depths of the fetid bog. Pathetic.

T: Iacocca needed his car to be cheap so Ford could compete with Germany’s Volkswagen Beetle and Japan’s popular Toyotas and Datsuns. He decreed that the Pinto would not be priced one cent over $2000. So instead of making that a goal, as it should have been, he imposed it out of hand as a hard constraint.

S: An arbitrary constraint. Thus he made sure he got his car cheap.

T: Unacceptably cheap. The gas tank had several design flaws that continually showed up in crash testing. They could have been corrected. They should have been corrected. Sadly, there was no safety culture at Ford at the time. Iacocca himself was known to have put it bluntly, “Safety doesn't sell.”

S: It’s expected by default, you moron. Is there a safety culture in place now?

T: The American auto industry adopted safety improvements as a result of the government regulations enacted because of countless automobile tragedies.

S: Why must innocent people die in horrible circumstances before anything is done to correct obvious, self-serving imbecilities?

T: The short answer: Because America is the land of the rich and the home of the goddamn plutocrats. A cigar-chomping Iacocca made sure Ford engineers toed the line. They all knew their jobs were on the line. No one uttered a peep. What they did was come up with a prostituted cost-benefit analysis that would «justify» immolation of hundreds and hundreds of occupants. Here we see the intentionally misformulated primal model that I was talking about.

S: What? They set out to show it was «cost-effective» ―whatever that means in this context― to have people burn to death in a minor car crash rather than spend a little more to fix the petrol tank?

T: Exactly. Including the maimed victims lucky enough to survive the blaze.

S: That is incredible.

T: Oh, no. That is America! Free enterprise reigns supreme, not the lives and well-being ―health, safety, happiness, whatever― of the common people.

S: That’s a democracy?

T: No one ever said anything about democracy when they founded the nation. Check out the three founding documents. All they blab about is liberty.

S: Liberty to knowingly sell you a car that explodes into a deadly fireball.

T: Gotcha! With you and your loved ones in it. Ford offered compensation of $7500 per burnt cadaver in a family-tragedy case. Touchingly cost-effective.

S: A mindset of wholesale pricing. Benumbing. So a human being was worth 3.75 cheap Pintos according to Ford’s brilliant estimation.

T: If dead, yes. Permanently disfigured survivors were worth less.

S: Wear and tear, I suppose.

T: Depreciation, accountants call it. The other Big Baboon responsible for this crime was Ford’s chairman and Iacocca’s boss, Henry Ford II. Number 2, then Número 1 at the company, had fought tooth and nail in Washington against the safety regulations the government wanted to require of the industry. He was, in his view, defending the hallowed American rights to liberty and free enterprise from the clutches of commies like Ralph Nader.

Number 2: What do you want from me, Mister Chairman
Number 0: We want information.
Number 2: Never! I am a free man! And this is a free country!

S: These people are totally psychotic. A bunch of bug-eyed lunatics.

T: Wait till we talk about guns in America. Nevertheless, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act passed in 1966, which led to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, the hated regulations that Number 2 had vigorously fought against in vain.

S: So the safety regulations were in place when the Pinto problem exploded.

T: Yes, but at first the government was lackadaisical in pursuing the case.

S: Wonder why. Who sat in the Oval Office?

T: Tricky Dick, soon followed by Ford II’s fellow Michigander, Gerald Ford.

S: Most propitious for Number 2. Doubly auspicious, in fact.

T: Things could not have been better. But Ford pardoned Dick, which voters found tricky, so they voted him out, and things went back to square one.

S: Square one was too good for Two. It should have been worse.

T: It soon was. In 1977 Mother Jones published a piece, “Pinto Madness”, by investigative journalist Mark Dowie. I’d strongly suggest that our listeners read it to see the shady political-corporate complex at work. It’s posted on the Web.

S: Yet another corrupt, good-ol’-boys complex. America is all shot to hell.

T: Hardly surprising. They’ve assiduously worked at it for centuries.

S: Well, as they say, Rome was not built in a day. Dullard copycats.

T: Children of the copycat Brits. The day after the article’s publication, Ralph Nader and Dowie held a bombshell press conference in Washington where the Pinto scandal was flatly exposed. The day following that press conference, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finally began investigating the Pinto case in earnest. No different than in a Third World country, Shahrazad.

S: Haughty Americans should know. They use that as a disparaging term.

T: Some know only too well. But most citizens know beans about how fat cats and their political flunkies do as they damn well please with the people’s much ballyhooed «democracy». Their illusory, delusory, plutocratic «democracy».

S: All in the name of liberty. That’s rich!

T: Sounds harsh to say it, but the gullible get what they deserve.

S: As long as the money keeps coming in, they’ll swallow anything.

T: With his trickery, Number 2 was able to delay NHTSA’s investigation for a whopping eight years, during which time his company made billions in profits as a multitude of horrified Pinto occupants agonized ablaze in their cars.

S: America, love it or leave it. But never in a Ford Pinto.

T: Dowie ends his courageous inquest with the following comment:

[T]he only government punishment meted out to auto companies for noncompliance to standards has been a minuscule fine, usually $5,000 to $10,000. One wonders how long the Ford Motor Company would continue to market lethal cars were Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca serving 20-year terms in Leavenworth for consumer homicide.

S: Did America learn anything from the Pinto disaster? Have they purposely changed the way they do business?

T: No. When the newly introduced Boeing 737 Max 8 had two eerily similar crashes recently that killed 346 people, Boeing asked Honcho Chumpo to not ground the aircraft lest the negative publicity adversely affect the sales of their airliner. Chumpo agreed but was forced fast to relent to international pressure: foreign airlines and governments promptly grounded the plane on their turfs.

S: It turns out that the plane was not really certified by the government agency charged with doing precisely that. The Federal Aviation Administration had let Boeing personnel «certify» much of their company’s own aircraft.

T: It’s the Pinto pantomime all over again half a century later. A government of the fat cats, by the fat cats, for the fat cats. Fat cats remain the real honchos.

S: They allow people to vote in elections that never curb fat cat dominance.

T: Because the fatsos have the politicos in their pockets. Classic Third World.

S: But the blowback left Iacocca and Number 2 largely unscathed. One would think the dual consequences would have struck them hard. What went wrong?

T: Consequences strike the system. People died and suffered horrible traumas. Jurors failed to do justice. But the full consequences need not have yet ended.

S: The effects linger, you mean.

T: Systems are networked hierarchically. Pernicious doings will impact all the connected systems to some degree. Shockwaves will propagate throughout the network, triggering reactions. Blowback delays can be long, though, exceeding human time scales. To adequately examine the theory of hierarchical networks and their interlocking reactive dynamics we’d need another episode.

S: Well, reactive dynamics aside, Number 2 got away with murder.

T: We know nothing about what befell Number 2 upon his timely death.

S: Mm. Could systems analysis be of assistance in that inaccessible realm?

T: It can guide us in forming and analyzing conjectures. Rational conjectures.

S: Material for yet another episode. Many thanks to our listeners for patiently following this fairly abstruse discussion. Cardinal Points will return next week at its regularly scheduled times. I hope you can join Teriaki and me again here at Radio Sistema Tropical. I am Shahrazad Boyko signing off and wishing you a most pleasant morning, afternoon, evening, or night, wherever in the world you may happen to be.

This is Radio Sistema Tropical, the Antillean world broadcasting system.

* The only national emergency is that our president is an idiot.
— Ann Coulter, the original staunch Trump supporter, 15 February 2019

The process of willfully trading lives for profits is built into corporate capitalism.
— Mark Dowie, “Pinto Madness”, Mother Jones, September/October 1977

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