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Jack Burns

Jack Burns

29 days ago

Here's what to expect from NASA Artemis 1 and why it's significant.

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Katrina Paulson

Katrina Paulson

1 month ago

Dehumanization Against Anthropomorphization

We've fought for humanity's sake. We need equilibrium.

Photo by Bekah Russom on Unsplash

We live in a world of opposites (black/white, up/down, love/hate), thus life is a game of achieving equilibrium. We have a universe of paradoxes within ourselves, not just in physics.

Individually, you balance your intellect and heart, but as a species, we're full of polarities. They might be gentle and compassionate, then ruthless and unsympathetic.

We desire for connection so much that we personify non-human beings and objects while turning to violence and hatred toward others. These contrasts baffle me. Will we find balance?

Anthropomorphization

Assigning human-like features or bonding with objects is common throughout childhood. Cartoons often give non-humans human traits. Adults still anthropomorphize this trait. Researchers agree we start doing it as infants and continue throughout life.

Humans of all ages are good at humanizing stuff. We build emotional attachments to weather events, inanimate objects, animals, plants, and locales. Gods, goddesses, and fictitious figures are anthropomorphized.

Cast Away, starring Tom Hanks, features anthropization. Hanks is left on an island, where he builds an emotional bond with a volleyball he calls Wilson.

We became emotionally invested in Wilson, including myself.

Why do we do it, though?

Our instincts and traits helped us survive and thrive. Our brain is alert to other people's thoughts, feelings, and intentions to assist us to determine who is safe or hazardous. We can think about others and our own mental states, or about thinking. This is the Theory of Mind.

Neurologically, specialists believe the Theory of Mind has to do with our mirror neurons, which exhibit the same activity while executing or witnessing an action.

Mirror neurons may contribute to anthropization, but they're not the only ones. In 2021, Harvard Medical School researchers at MGH and MIT colleagues published a study on the brain's notion of mind.

“Our study provides evidence to support theory of mind by individual neurons. Until now, it wasn’t clear whether or how neurons were able to perform these social cognitive computations.”

Neurons have particular functions, researchers found. Others encode information that differentiates one person's beliefs from another's. Some neurons reflect tale pieces, whereas others aren't directly involved in social reasoning but may multitask contributing factors.

Combining neuronal data gives a precise portrait of another's beliefs and comprehension. The theory of mind describes how we judge and understand each other in our species, and it likely led to anthropomorphism. Neuroscience indicates identical brain regions react to human or non-human behavior, like mirror neurons.

Some academics believe we're wired for connection, which explains why we anthropomorphize. When we're alone, we may anthropomorphize non-humans.

Humanizing non-human entities may make them deserving of moral care, according to another theory. Animamorphizing something makes it responsible for its actions and deserves punishments or rewards. This mental shift is typically apparent in our connections with pets and leads to deanthropomorphization.

Dehumanization

Dehumanizing involves denying someone or anything ethical regard, the opposite of anthropomorphizing.

Dehumanization occurs throughout history. We do it to everything in nature, including ourselves. We experiment on and torture animals. We enslave, hate, and harm other groups of people.

Race, immigrant status, dress choices, sexual orientation, social class, religion, gender, politics, need I go on? Our degrading behavior is promoting fascism and division everywhere.

Dehumanizing someone or anything reduces their agency and value. Many assume they're immune to this feature, but tests disagree.

It's inevitable. Humans are wired to have knee-jerk reactions to differences. We are programmed to dehumanize others, and it's easier than we'd like to admit.

Why do we do it, though?

Dehumanizing others is simpler than humanizing things for several reasons. First, we consider everything unusual as harmful, which has helped our species survive for hundreds of millions of years. Our propensity to be distrustful of others, like our fear of the unknown, promotes an us-vs.-them mentality.

Since WWII, various studies have been done to explain how or why the holocaust happened. How did so many individuals become radicalized to commit such awful actions and feel morally justified? Researchers quickly showed how easily the mind can turn gloomy.

Stanley Milgram's 1960s electroshock experiment highlighted how quickly people bow to authority to injure others. Philip Zimbardo's 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment revealed how power may be abused.

The us-versus-them attitude is natural and even young toddlers act on it. Without a relationship, empathy is more difficult.

It's terrifying how quickly dehumanizing behavior becomes commonplace. The current pandemic is an example. Most countries no longer count deaths. Long Covid is a major issue, with predictions of a handicapped tsunami in the future years. Mostly, we shrug.

In 2020, we panicked. Remember everyone's caution? Now Long Covid is ruining more lives, threatening to disable an insane amount of our population for months or their entire lives.

There's little research. Experts can't even classify or cure it. The people should be outraged, but most have ceased caring. They're over covid.

We're encouraged to find a method to live with a terrible pandemic that will cause years of damage. People aren't worried about infection anymore. They shrug and say, "We'll all get it eventually," then hope they're not one of the 30% who develops Long Covid.

We can correct course before further damage. Because we can recognize our urges and biases, we're not captives to them. We can think critically about our thoughts and behaviors, then attempt to improve. We can recognize our deficiencies and work to attain balance.

Changing perspectives

We're currently attempting to find equilibrium between opposites. It's superficial to defend extremes by stating we're only human or wired this way because both imply we have no control.

Being human involves having self-awareness, and by being careful of our thoughts and acts, we can find balance and recognize opposites' purpose.

Extreme anthropomorphizing and dehumanizing isolate and imperil us. We anthropomorphize because we desire connection and dehumanize because we're terrified, frequently of the connection we crave. Will we find balance?

Katrina Paulson ponders humanity, unanswered questions, and discoveries. Please check out her newsletters, Curious Adventure and Curious Life.

Adam Frank

Adam Frank

1 month ago

Humanity is not even a Type 1 civilization. What might a Type 3 be capable of?

The Kardashev scale grades civilizations from Type 1 to Type 3 based on energy harvesting.

How do technologically proficient civilizations emerge across timescales measuring in the tens of thousands or even millions of years? This is a question that worries me as a researcher in the search for “technosignatures” from other civilizations on other worlds. Since it is already established that longer-lived civilizations are the ones we are most likely to detect, knowing something about their prospective evolutionary trajectories could be translated into improved search tactics. But even more than knowing what to seek for, what I really want to know is what happens to a society after so long time. What are they capable of? What do they become?

This was the question Russian SETI pioneer Nikolai Kardashev asked himself back in 1964. His answer was the now-famous “Kardashev Scale.” Kardashev was the first, although not the last, scientist to try and define the processes (or stages) of the evolution of civilizations. Today, I want to launch a series on this question. It is crucial to technosignature studies (of which our NASA team is hard at work), and it is also important for comprehending what might lay ahead for mankind if we manage to get through the bottlenecks we have now.

The Kardashev scale

Kardashev’s question can be expressed another way. What milestones in a civilization’s advancement up the ladder of technical complexity will be universal? The main notion here is that all (or at least most) civilizations will pass through some kind of definable stages as they progress, and some of these steps might be mirrored in how we could identify them. But, while Kardashev’s major focus was identifying signals from exo-civilizations, his scale gave us a clear way to think about their evolution.

The classification scheme Kardashev employed was not based on social systems of ethics because they are something that we can probably never predict about alien cultures. Instead, it was built on energy, which is something near and dear to the heart of everybody trained in physics. Energy use might offer the basis for universal stages of civilisation progression because you cannot do the work of establishing a civilization without consuming energy. So, Kardashev looked at what energy sources were accessible to civilizations as they evolved technologically and used those to build his scale.

From Kardashev’s perspective, there are three primary levels or “types” of advancement in terms of harvesting energy through which a civilization should progress.

Type 1: Civilizations that can capture all the energy resources of their native planet constitute the first stage. This would imply capturing all the light energy that falls on a world from its host star. This makes it reasonable, given solar energy will be the largest source available on most planets where life could form. For example, Earth absorbs hundreds of atomic bombs’ worth of energy from the Sun every second. That is a rather formidable energy source, and a Type 1 race would have all this power at their disposal for civilization construction.

Type 2: These civilizations can extract the whole energy resources of their home star. Nobel Prize-winning scientist Freeman Dyson famously anticipated Kardashev’s thinking on this when he imagined an advanced civilization erecting a large sphere around its star. This “Dyson Sphere” would be a machine the size of the complete solar system for gathering stellar photons and their energy.

Type 3: These super-civilizations could use all the energy produced by all the stars in their home galaxy. A normal galaxy has a few hundred billion stars, so that is a whole lot of energy. One way this may be done is if the civilization covered every star in their galaxy with Dyson spheres, but there could also be more inventive approaches.

Implications of the Kardashev scale

Climbing from Type 1 upward, we travel from the imaginable to the god-like. For example, it is not hard to envisage utilizing lots of big satellites in space to gather solar energy and then beaming that energy down to Earth via microwaves. That would get us to a Type 1 civilization. But creating a Dyson sphere would require chewing up whole planets. How long until we obtain that level of power? How would we have to change to get there? And once we get to Type 3 civilizations, we are virtually thinking about gods with the potential to engineer the entire cosmos.

For me, this is part of the point of the Kardashev scale. Its application for thinking about identifying technosignatures is crucial, but even more strong is its capacity to help us shape our imaginations. The mind might become blank staring across hundreds or thousands of millennia, and so we need tools and guides to focus our attention. That may be the only way to see what life might become — what we might become — once it arises to start out beyond the boundaries of space and time and potential.


This is a summary. Read the full article here.

Will Lockett

Will Lockett

24 days ago

Thanks to a recent development, solar energy may prove to be the best energy source.

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

Perovskite solar cells will revolutionize everything.

Humanity is in a climatic Armageddon. Our widespread ecological crimes of the previous century are catching up with us, and planet-scale karma threatens everyone. We must adjust to new technologies and lifestyles to avoid this fate. Even solar power, a renewable energy source, has climate problems. A recent discovery could boost solar power's eco-friendliness and affordability. Perovskite solar cells are amazing.

Perovskite is a silicon-like semiconductor. Semiconductors are used to make computer chips, LEDs, camera sensors, and solar cells. Silicon makes sturdy and long-lasting solar cells, thus it's used in most modern solar panels.

Perovskite solar cells are far better. First, they're easy to make at room temperature, unlike silicon cells, which require long, intricate baking processes. This makes perovskite cells cheaper to make and reduces their carbon footprint. Perovskite cells are efficient. Most silicon panel solar farms are 18% efficient, meaning 18% of solar radiation energy is transformed into electricity. Perovskite cells are 25% efficient, making them 38% more efficient than silicon.

However, perovskite cells are nowhere near as durable. A normal silicon panel will lose efficiency after 20 years. The first perovskite cells were ineffective since they lasted barely minutes.

Recent research from Princeton shows that perovskite cells can endure 30 years. The cells kept their efficiency, therefore no sacrifices were made.

No electrical or chemical engineer here, thus I can't explain how they did it. But strangely, the team said longevity isn't the big deal. In the next years, perovskite panels will become longer-lasting. How do you test a panel if you only have a month or two? This breakthrough technique needs a uniform method to estimate perovskite life expectancy fast. The study's key milestone was establishing a standard procedure.

Lab-based advanced aging tests are their solution. Perovskite cells decay faster at higher temperatures, so scientists can extrapolate from that. The test heated the panel to 110 degrees and waited for its output to reduce by 20%. Their panel lasted 2,100 hours (87.5 days) before a 20% decline.

They did some math to extrapolate this data and figure out how long the panel would have lasted in different climates, and were shocked to find it would last 30 years in Princeton. This made perovskite panels as durable as silicon panels. This panel could theoretically be sold today.

This technology will soon allow these brilliant panels to be released into the wild. This technology could be commercially viable in ten, maybe five years.

Solar power will be the best once it does. Solar power is cheap and low-carbon. Perovskite is the cheapest renewable energy source if we switch to it. Solar panel manufacturing's carbon footprint will also drop.

Perovskites' impact goes beyond cost and carbon. Silicon panels require harmful mining and contain toxic elements (cadmium). Perovskite panels don't require intense mining or horrible materials, making their production and expiration more eco-friendly.

Solar power destroys habitat. Massive solar farms could reduce biodiversity and disrupt local ecology by destroying vital habitats. Perovskite cells are more efficient, so they can shrink a solar farm while maintaining energy output. This reduces land requirements, making perovskite solar power cheaper, and could reduce solar's environmental impact.

Perovskite solar power is scalable and environmentally friendly. Princeton scientists will speed up the development and rollout of this energy.

Why bother with fusion, fast reactors, SMRs, or traditional nuclear power? We're close to developing a nearly perfect environmentally friendly power source, and we have the tools and systems to do so quickly. It's also affordable, so we can adopt it quickly and let the developing world use it to grow. Even I struggle to justify spending billions on fusion when a great, cheap technology outperforms it. Perovskite's eco-credentials and cost advantages could save the world and power humanity's future.

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Karthik Rajan

Karthik Rajan

2 months ago

11 Cooking Hacks I Wish I Knew Earlier 

Quick, easy and tasty (and dollops of parenting around food).

My wife and mom are both great mothers. They're super-efficient planners. They soak and ferment food. My 104-year-old grandfather loved fermented foods.

When I'm hungry and need something fast, I waffle to the pantry. Like most people, I like to improvise. I wish I knew these 11 hacks sooner.

1. The world's best pasta sauce only has 3 ingredients.

You watch recipe videos with prepped ingredients. In reality, prepping and washing take time. The food's taste isn't guaranteed. The raw truth at a sublime level is not talked about often.

Sometimes a radical recipe comes along that's so easy and tasty, you're dumbfounded. The Classic Italian Cook Book has a pasta recipe.

One 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes, one medium peeled onion, and 5 tablespoons of butter. And salt to taste.

Combine everything in a single pot and simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally. Toss the onion halves after 45 minutes and pour the sauce over pasta. Finish!

This simple recipe fights our deepest fears.

Salt to taste! Customized to perfection, no frills.

2. Reheating rice with ice. Magical.

Most of the world eats rice. I was raised in south India. My grandfather farmed rice in the Cauvery river delta.

The problem with rice With growing kids, you can't cook just enough. Leftovers are a norm. Microwaves help most people. Ice cubes are the frosting.

Before reheating rice in the microwave, add an ice cube. The ice will steam the rice, making it fluffy and delicious again.

3. Pineapple leaf 

if it comes off easy, it is ripe enough to cut. No rethinking.

My daughter loves pineapples like her dad. One daddy task is cutting them. Sharing immediate results is therapeutic.

Timing the cut has been the most annoying part over the years. The pineapple leaf tip reveals the fruitiness inside. Always loved it.

4. Magic knife words (rolling and curling)

Cutting hand: Roll the blade's back, not its tip, to cut.

Other hand: If you can’t see your finger tips, you can’t cut them. So curl your fingers.

I dislike that schools don't teach financial literacy or cutting skills.

My wife and I used scissors differently for 25 years. We both used the thumb. My index finger, her middle. We googled the difference when I noticed it and laughed. She's right.

This video teaches knifing skills:


5. Best advice about heat

If it's done in the pan, it's overdone on the plate.

This simple advice stands out when we worry about ingredients and proportions.

6. The truth about pasta water

Pasta water should be sea-salty.

Properly seasoning food separates good from great. Salt depends is a good line.

Want delicious pasta? Well, then kind of a lot, to be perfectly honest.

7. Clean as you go

Clean blender as you go by blending water and dish soap.

I find clean as you go easier than clean afterwords. This easy tip is gold.

8. Clean as you go (bis)

Microwave a bowl of water, vinegar, and a toothpick for 5 minutes.

2 cups water, 2 tablespoons vinegar, and a toothpick to prevent overflow.

5-minute microwave. Let the steam work for another 2 minutes. Sponge-off dirt and food. Simple.

9 and 10. Tools,tools, tools

Immersion blender and pressure cooker save time and money.

Narrative: I experienced fatherly pride. My middle-schooler loves science. We discussed boiling. I spoke. Water doesn't need 100°C to boil. She looked confused. 100 degrees assume something. The world around the water is a normal room. Changing water pressure affects its boiling point. This saves energy. Pressure cooker magic.

I captivated her. She's into science and sustainable living.

Whistling is a subliminal form of self-expression when done right. Pressure cookers remind me of simple pleasures.

Your handiness depends on your home tools. Immersion blenders are great for pre- and post-cooking. It eliminates chopping and washing. Second to the dishwasher, in my opinion.

11. One pepper is plenty

A story I share with my daughters.

Once, everyone thought about spice (not spicy). More valuable than silk. One of the three mighty oceans was named after a source country. Columbus sailed the wrong way and found America. The explorer called the natives after reaching his spice destination.

It was pre-internet days. His Google wasn't working.

My younger daughter listens in awe. Strong roots. Image cast. She can contextualize one of the ocean names.

I struggle with spices in daily life. Combinations are mind-boggling. I have more spices than Columbus. Flavor explosion has repercussions. You must closely follow the recipe without guarantees. Best aha. Double down on one spice and move on. If you like it, it's great.

I naturally gravitate towards cumin soups, fennel dishes, mint rice, oregano pasta, basil thai curry and cardamom pudding.

Variety enhances life. Each of my dishes is unique.

To each their own comfort food and nostalgic memories.

Happy living!

Max Chafkin

Max Chafkin

4 months ago

Elon Musk Bets $44 Billion on Free Speech's Future

Musk’s purchase of Twitter has sealed his bond with the American right—whether the platform’s left-leaning employees and users like it or not.

Elon Musk's pursuit of Twitter Inc. began earlier this month as a joke. It started slowly, then spiraled out of control, culminating on April 25 with the world's richest man agreeing to spend $44 billion on one of the most politically significant technology companies ever. There have been bigger financial acquisitions, but Twitter's significance has always outpaced its balance sheet. This is a unique Silicon Valley deal.

To recap: Musk announced in early April that he had bought a stake in Twitter, citing the company's alleged suppression of free speech. His complaints were vague, relying heavily on the dog whistles of the ultra-right. A week later, he announced he'd buy the company for $54.20 per share, four days after initially pledging to join Twitter's board. Twitter's directors noticed the 420 reference as well, and responded with a “shareholder rights” plan (i.e., a poison pill) that included a 420 joke.


Musk - Patrick Pleul/Getty Images

No one knew if the bid was genuine. Musk's Twitter plans seemed implausible or insincere. In a tweet, he referred to automated accounts that use his name to promote cryptocurrency. He enraged his prospective employees by suggesting that Twitter's San Francisco headquarters be turned into a homeless shelter, renaming the company Titter, and expressing solidarity with his growing conservative fan base. “The woke mind virus is making Netflix unwatchable,” he tweeted on April 19.

But Musk got funding, and after a frantic weekend of negotiations, Twitter said yes. Unlike most buyouts, Musk will personally fund the deal, putting up up to $21 billion in cash and borrowing another $12.5 billion against his Tesla stock.

Free Speech and Partisanship

Percentage of respondents who agree with the following

The deal is expected to replatform accounts that were banned by Twitter for harassing others, spreading misinformation, or inciting violence, such as former President Donald Trump's account. As a result, Musk is at odds with his own left-leaning employees, users, and advertisers, who would prefer more content moderation rather than less.


Dorsey - Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Previously, the company's leadership had similar issues. Founder Jack Dorsey stepped down last year amid concerns about slowing growth and product development, as well as his dual role as CEO of payments processor Block Inc. Compared to Musk, a father of seven who already runs four companies (besides Tesla and SpaceX), Dorsey is laser-focused.

Musk's motivation to buy Twitter may be political. Affirming the American far right with $44 billion spent on “free speech” Right-wing activists have promoted a series of competing upstart Twitter competitors—Parler, Gettr, and Trump's own effort, Truth Social—since Trump was banned from major social media platforms for encouraging rioters at the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. But Musk can give them a social network with lax content moderation and a real user base. Trump said he wouldn't return to Twitter after the deal was announced, but he wouldn't be the first to do so.


Trump - Eli Hiller/Bloomberg

Conservative activists and lawmakers are already ecstatic. “A great day for free speech in America,” said Missouri Republican Josh Hawley. The day the deal was announced, Tucker Carlson opened his nightly Fox show with a 10-minute laudatory monologue. “The single biggest political development since Donald Trump's election in 2016,” he gushed over Musk.

But Musk's supporters and detractors misunderstand how much his business interests influence his political ideology. He marketed Tesla's cars as carbon-saving machines that were faster and cooler than gas-powered luxury cars during George W. Bush's presidency. Musk gained a huge following among wealthy environmentalists who reserved hundreds of thousands of Tesla sedans years before they were made during Barack Obama's presidency. Musk in the Trump era advocated for a carbon tax, but he also fought local officials (and his own workers) over Covid rules that slowed the reopening of his Bay Area factory.


Teslas at the Las Vegas Convention Center Loop Central Station in April 2021. The Las Vegas Convention Center Loop was Musk's first commercial project. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Musk's rightward shift matched the rise of the nationalist-populist right and the desire to serve a growing EV market. In 2019, he unveiled the Cybertruck, a Tesla pickup, and in 2018, he announced plans to manufacture it at a new plant outside Austin. In 2021, he decided to move Tesla's headquarters there, citing California's "land of over-regulation." After Ford and General Motors beat him to the electric truck market, Musk reframed Tesla as a company for pickup-driving dudes.

Similarly, his purchase of Twitter will be entwined with his other business interests. Tesla has a factory in China and is friendly with Beijing. This could be seen as a conflict of interest when Musk's Twitter decides how to treat Chinese-backed disinformation, as Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos noted.

Musk has focused on Twitter's product and social impact, but the company's biggest challenges are financial: Either increase cash flow or cut costs to comfortably service his new debt. Even if Musk can't do that, he can still benefit from the deal. He has recently used the increased attention to promote other business interests: Boring has hyperloops and Neuralink brain implants on the way, Musk tweeted. Remember Tesla's long-promised robotaxis!

Musk may be comfortable saying he has no expectation of profit because it benefits his other businesses. At the TED conference on April 14, Musk insisted that his interest in Twitter was solely charitable. “I don't care about money.”

The rockets and weed jokes make it easy to see Musk as unique—and his crazy buyout will undoubtedly add to that narrative. However, he is a megabillionaire who is risking a small amount of money (approximately 13% of his net worth) to gain potentially enormous influence. Musk makes everything seem new, but this is a rehash of an old media story.

Adam Hayes

Adam Hayes

3 months ago

Bernard Lawrence "Bernie" Madoff, the largest Ponzi scheme in history

Madoff who?

Bernie Madoff ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding thousands of investors over at least 17 years, and possibly longer. He pioneered electronic trading and chaired Nasdaq in the 1990s. On April 14, 2021, he died while serving a 150-year sentence for money laundering, securities fraud, and other crimes.

Understanding Madoff

Madoff claimed to generate large, steady returns through a trading strategy called split-strike conversion, but he simply deposited client funds into a single bank account and paid out existing clients. He funded redemptions by attracting new investors and their capital, but the market crashed in late 2008. He confessed to his sons, who worked at his firm, on Dec. 10, 2008. Next day, they turned him in. The fund reported $64.8 billion in client assets.

Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felony counts, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, perjury, and money laundering. Ponzi scheme became a symbol of Wall Street's greed and dishonesty before the financial crisis. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $170 billion, but no other Wall Street figures faced legal ramifications.

Bernie Madoff's Brief Biography

Bernie Madoff was born in Queens, New York, on April 29, 1938. He began dating Ruth (née Alpern) when they were teenagers. Madoff told a journalist by phone from prison that his father's sporting goods store went bankrupt during the Korean War: "You watch your father, who you idolize, build a big business and then lose everything." Madoff was determined to achieve "lasting success" like his father "whatever it took," but his career had ups and downs.

Early Madoff investments

At 22, he started Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. First, he traded penny stocks with $5,000 he earned installing sprinklers and as a lifeguard. Family and friends soon invested with him. Madoff's bets soured after the "Kennedy Slide" in 1962, and his father-in-law had to bail him out.

Madoff felt he wasn't part of the Wall Street in-crowd. "We weren't NYSE members," he told Fishman. "It's obvious." According to Madoff, he was a scrappy market maker. "I was happy to take the crumbs," he told Fishman, citing a client who wanted to sell eight bonds; a bigger firm would turn it down.

Recognition

Success came when he and his brother Peter built electronic trading capabilities, or "artificial intelligence," that attracted massive order flow and provided market insights. "I had all these major banks coming down, entertaining me," Madoff told Fishman. "It was mind-bending."

By the late 1980s, he and four other Wall Street mainstays processed half of the NYSE's order flow. Controversially, he paid for much of it, and by the late 1980s, Madoff was making in the vicinity of $100 million a year.  He was Nasdaq chairman from 1990 to 1993.

Madoff's Ponzi scheme

It is not certain exactly when Madoff's Ponzi scheme began. He testified in court that it began in 1991, but his account manager, Frank DiPascali, had been at the firm since 1975.

Why Madoff did the scheme is unclear. "I had enough money to support my family's lifestyle. "I don't know why," he told Fishman." Madoff could have won Wall Street's respect as a market maker and electronic trading pioneer.

Madoff told Fishman he wasn't solely responsible for the fraud. "I let myself be talked into something, and that's my fault," he said, without saying who convinced him. "I thought I could escape eventually. I thought it'd be quick, but I couldn't."

Carl Shapiro, Jeffry Picower, Stanley Chais, and Norm Levy have been linked to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC for years. Madoff's scheme made these men hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1960s and 1970s.

Madoff told Fishman, "Everyone was greedy, everyone wanted to go on." He says the Big Four and others who pumped client funds to him, outsourcing their asset management, must have suspected his returns or should have. "How can you make 15%-18% when everyone else is making less?" said Madoff.

How Madoff Got Away with It for So Long

Madoff's high returns made clients look the other way. He deposited their money in a Chase Manhattan Bank account, which merged to become JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2000. The bank may have made $483 million from those deposits, so it didn't investigate.

When clients redeemed their investments, Madoff funded the payouts with new capital he attracted by promising unbelievable returns and earning his victims' trust. Madoff created an image of exclusivity by turning away clients. This model let half of Madoff's investors profit. These investors must pay into a victims' fund for defrauded investors.

Madoff wooed investors with his philanthropy. He defrauded nonprofits, including the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Peace and Hadassah. He approached congregants through his friendship with J. Ezra Merkin, a synagogue officer. Madoff allegedly stole $1 billion to $2 billion from his investors.

Investors believed Madoff for several reasons:

  • His public portfolio seemed to be blue-chip stocks.
  • His returns were high (10-20%) but consistent and not outlandish. In a 1992 interview with Madoff, the Wall Street Journal reported: "[Madoff] insists the returns were nothing special, given that the S&P 500-stock index returned 16.3% annually from 1982 to 1992. 'I'd be surprised if anyone thought matching the S&P over 10 years was remarkable,' he says.
  • "He said he was using a split-strike collar strategy. A collar protects underlying shares by purchasing an out-of-the-money put option.

SEC inquiry

The Securities and Exchange Commission had been investigating Madoff and his securities firm since 1999, which frustrated many after he was prosecuted because they felt the biggest damage could have been prevented if the initial investigations had been rigorous enough.

Harry Markopolos was a whistleblower. In 1999, he figured Madoff must be lying in an afternoon. The SEC ignored his first Madoff complaint in 2000.

Markopolos wrote to the SEC in 2005: "The largest Ponzi scheme is Madoff Securities. This case has no SEC reward, so I'm turning it in because it's the right thing to do."

Many believed the SEC's initial investigations could have prevented Madoff's worst damage.

Markopolos found irregularities using a "Mosaic Method." Madoff's firm claimed to be profitable even when the S&P fell, which made no mathematical sense given what he was investing in. Markopolos said Madoff Securities' "undisclosed commissions" were the biggest red flag (1 percent of the total plus 20 percent of the profits).

Markopolos concluded that "investors don't know Bernie Madoff manages their money." Markopolos learned Madoff was applying for large loans from European banks (seemingly unnecessary if Madoff's returns were high).

The regulator asked Madoff for trading account documentation in 2005, after he nearly went bankrupt due to redemptions. The SEC drafted letters to two of the firms on his six-page list but didn't send them. Diana Henriques, author of "The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust," documents the episode.

In 2008, the SEC was criticized for its slow response to Madoff's fraud.

Confession, sentencing of Bernie Madoff

Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC reported 5.6% year-to-date returns in November 2008; the S&P 500 fell 39%. As the selling continued, Madoff couldn't keep up with redemption requests, and on Dec. 10, he confessed to his sons Mark and Andy, who worked at his firm. "After I told them, they left, went to a lawyer, who told them to turn in their father, and I never saw them again. 2008-12-11: Bernie Madoff arrested.

Madoff insists he acted alone, but several of his colleagues were jailed. Mark Madoff died two years after his father's fraud was exposed. Madoff's investors committed suicide. Andy Madoff died of cancer in 2014.

2009 saw Madoff's 150-year prison sentence and $170 billion forfeiture. Marshals sold his three homes and yacht. Prisoner 61727-054 at Butner Federal Correctional Institution in North Carolina.

Madoff's lawyers requested early release on February 5, 2020, claiming he has a terminal kidney disease that may kill him in 18 months. Ten years have passed since Madoff's sentencing.

Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme aftermath

The paper trail of victims' claims shows Madoff's complexity and size. Documents show Madoff's scam began in the 1960s. His final account statements show $47 billion in "profit" from fake trades and shady accounting.

Thousands of investors lost their life savings, and multiple stories detail their harrowing loss.

Irving Picard, a New York lawyer overseeing Madoff's bankruptcy, has helped investors. By December 2018, Picard had recovered $13.3 billion from Ponzi scheme profiteers.

A Madoff Victim Fund (MVF) was created in 2013 to help compensate Madoff's victims, but the DOJ didn't start paying out the $4 billion until late 2017. Richard Breeden, a former SEC chair who oversees the fund, said thousands of claims were from "indirect investors"

Breeden and his team had to reject many claims because they weren't direct victims. Breeden said he based most of his decisions on one simple rule: Did the person invest more than they withdrew? Breeden estimated 11,000 "feeder" investors.

Breeden wrote in a November 2018 update for the Madoff Victim Fund, "We've paid over 27,300 victims 56.65% of their losses, with thousands more to come." In December 2018, 37,011 Madoff victims in the U.S. and around the world received over $2.7 billion. Breeden said the fund expected to make "at least one more significant distribution in 2019"


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