Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Current Financial Crisis and Cylon Resurrection

One of the potential holes in Ron Moore's Cylon back-story is his explanation for Cylon resurrection technology, which, unless I'm mistaken, goes something like this:

For a very long time, Cylons could not achieve sexual reproduction, so they "reproduced" via download, or "resurrection." Then something happened and Cylons could reproduce sexual reproduction, so they abandoned resurrection in favor of it. They turned their backs on resurrection technology for so long, in fact, that when they needed it again, nobody could quite figure out how to make it work any more. Or rather, it took a group of very smart Cylons working together for a very long time to reverse-engineer the tech.

The obvious problem being, how does an advanced civilization "lose" the ability to create an old technology. It sounds a little contrived; but maybe not.

Today's Post carries an op-ed about credit default swaps by David Smick, which essentially makes the point that we have this giant financial system and nobody actually knows how it works:

I suspect Obama's advisers would like nothing more than to dismantle an irresponsible firm such as Citigroup. They are afraid to do so, for one reason: All the big banks are connected to a potentially lethal web of paper insurance instruments called credit default swaps. These paper derivatives have become our financial system's new master.

The theory holds that dismantling a big bank could unravel this paper market, with catastrophic global financial consequences. Or not. Nobody knows . . .

In addition, Geithner worries that because the troubled insurance giant American International Group (AIG) is a conduit for the banks' use of credit default swaps, a collapse of AIG (as an unintended consequence of dismantling the big banks) could be catastrophic. AIG's more than 300 million terrified holders of insurance-related investments and pension funds, who have investments totaling $20 trillion (U.S. GDP is $14 trillion), could suddenly rush for redemptions -- the equivalent of a run on a bank. Geithner would face a worldwide insurance collapse to accompany his global banking collapse.

Or again, maybe not. Nobody knows.

Maybe resurrection technology looked just as opaque to the Cylons.


Anonymous said...

US Forgets How To Make Trident Missiles

If we can forget this, I'll cut the Cylons some slack.

Dave S. said...

Don't forget Greek Fire and how to shoot it from a ship. Oops, too late.

ELC said...

This is not at all surprising.

I worked as a programmer/analyst for two decades. I know from experience that it is actually rather easy for a team to produce a software system that nobody really understands from one end to the other.

To the other point, I think there is a great deal that we moderns either took a long time to understand or still don't understand. Former case: we couldn't imagine how ancient Easter Islanders carved and moved the famous statues, until somebody found out that the method had been passed down through oral tradition and could be replicated. Latter case: I think we still do not know how the interiors of the pyramids were illuminated during construction.

Anonymous said...

Nicely written, the financial system is so vast and has so many rules and laws that it's not possible for one person to know it all. So in order to handle a problem in such system, multiple people are needed to make a team and consult all the options. That's just impossible sometimes because the system keeps changing and developing into a more confusing mass that will never be understood entirely. Just like ELC said, nobody can still quite figure out how the pyramids worked.

Take care, Elli

Anonymous said...

Some good examples already, but I'll add another:

We don't know quite how a lot of the WWI-era biplanes were built, and people who restore them have to look at photographs of factory workers a decipher what they were doing. A lot of it is trial-and-error, to figure out what works... and there's no guarantee that one way that works is actually what was done originally.