Sunday, November 25, 2007

Ethics of an Advanced Civilization

What kinds of policies is an advanced civilization likely to have regarding interacting with other societies it encounters?

Thinking of the most interesting case, a discretionary interaction, a more advanced society could probably easily identify ways of preventing pain or hardship in a less advanced society with their more advanced technology, spreading the smallpox vaccine would be an example in the human case.

If there were no existential risk to either civilization, and the more advanced society could adequately communicate with the lesser advanced society, to what degree if any should an advanced society be morally obligated to share their advanced technology with a less advanced society?

Presumably high up in the most likely example of an advanced society’s goals would be the furthering of knowledge and technology, and presumably this could be better accomplished with additional agents. So an advanced society would be more rather than less likely to share advanced technology, most likely overtly, even if it could adversely impact the culture of the less advanced society.

How the technology would be shared could be an interesting question, if the possessing society were advanced enough presumably it would be shared non-pecuniarily. Identifying which technologies should be shared could also be an interesting question as there will likely still be some competition for status and resources but probably nearly all technology could be shared as lesser advanced societies advanced to parity.

The foresightedness and cohesion required to consider the possibility of encountering other societies and have a universally agreed upon policy for this situation would seem to be one early mark of an advanced civilization.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Prosper reaches $100 million in loan volume

Peer-to-peer lending company Prosper reached a benchmark $100 million in loan volume this week. With the US stock market declines, credit crunch, raising gas prices and ailing economy, borrowers are turning to novel forms of credit such as fledgling peer-to-peer capital platforms offered by Prosper (US), Lending Club (US) and Zopa (UK).

$100 million in loan volume is an important benchmark, however the overall growth rate of new Prosper loans is slowing as the chart below indicates. Prosper's loan volume grew from essentially zero at the beginning of 2006 to $100 million in November 2007 but the S-curve inflected earlier this year at the $50 million loan volume mark.

Source: Prosper performance data. Note: the default view which specifies 0 delinquencies and 0-2 credit checks in the last 6 months should be removed to view the total loan portfolio.

The reason that Prosper loan growth is slowing is the same subprime credit challenge facing large financial institutions and the US economy as a whole. Initially, high interest rates attracted individuals willing to lend to subprime borrowers to the Prosper platform, but many of them have experienced high default rates and withdrawn their capital or curtailed their lending strategies.

Below is Prosper's ROI by credit tier, comparing the annual return for the year ending September 30, 2007 with the year ending August 31, 2007. Negative returns can be expected for credit tiers D, E and HR (high risk), while even the C tier has now slipped to a zero ROI. Prosper continues to be exclusively appropriate for investing in high credit quality, tiers AA, A and B, where the 6-9% ROI is still attractive relative to other investments, however perhaps becoming more risky.

Source: Prosper performance data.