I have been working on a small writeup for a couple days but today I as watched the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, I decided to write a few thoughts instead. I recommend everyone watch this hearing but not from the perspective of what is being discussed.
I noticed that the once revered Dr. Greenspan who had even been considered more powerful than the president of the United States at one point was being attacked like a common criminal. Empowered with the luxury of full hindsight and large taxpayer funds to aid in their research, the members were questioning statements that Mr. Greenspan made during his tenure. These members may appear tough and timely to an untrained eye. Their attacks may soothe some people yearning for revenge for their own troubles. I felt they were highly inappropriate and severely lacking.
It is easier to look back than to look forward. What a simple statement, right? For over a decade, I have trouble remembering historical details, conversations, details that others never forget. The reason for this is simple. I spend most of my time every day thinking about the present and the future and very little time thinking about the past. The past simply fades away while impressions, lessons learned and their ramifications on the current are always with me.
I remember some of the statements these people were quoting. Greenspan was guessing the future (as best as he could I’m sure) and based on all his experience making those forward looking statements. The world unfortunately is not so simple for a single human mind (even the brightest) or even the top two percent of intellectuals armed with the best computers and all the support staff to forecast the future flow of events. The past does not repeat itself. Perhaps you may understand me better if you take a look at the Law of Ever-Changing Cycles in The Education of a Speculator by Victor Niederhoffer.
My job is not too different from that of the lawmakers. They design new laws, while I design new software. How those laws are used, twisted and abused, is as unpredictable as how a piece of software is going to be used after it’s released. Laws impact people’s lives, software impacts people’s lives. Laws can have loopholes, issues, and unintended consequences. Software can have bugs. Sure some root cause analysis is needed to learn from our past mistakes but let’s instead focus on fixing the issues, closing loopholes, addressing the impacts. I suspect the lawmakers (they’re human after all) struggle with knowing what to fix and how to fix to minimize negative future fallout.
I am disappointed in the hearing (was it even needed?). I am disappointed in the comments made by these folks. I am especially disappointed in how the events have unfolded. We’re humans. I’m sure we’ll do it all again.