Evil finance should contribute to open source
This is a guest post from an friend who wishes to remain anonymous.
I’ve been thinking lately that a great way for “evil finance” to partially atone for its sins is to pay a lot of money to improve open source libraries like numpy/scipy/R. They could appeal to the whole ”this helps cancer research” theme, which I honestly believe is true to some extent. For example, if BigData programs ran 10% faster because of various improvements, and you think there’s any value to current medical research, and the cancer researchers use the tools, then that’s great and it’s also great PR.
To some extent I think places like Google get some good publicity here (I personally think of them as contributing to open source, not sure how true it really is), and it seems like Goldman and others could and should do this as well — some sliver of their rent collection goes into making everybody’s analysis run faster and some of that leads to really important research results.
Personally I think it’s true even now; Intel has been working for years on faster chips, partially to help price crazy derivatives but it indirectly makes everybody’s iPhone a little cheaper. Contributing directly to open source seems like a direct way to improve the world and somewhat honestly claim credit, while getting huge benefit.
And it simultaneously has nice capitalist and socialist components, so who wouldn’t be happy?
There are actual problems banks care about solving faster, a lot of which uses pretty general purpose open source libraries, and then there are the maintainers of open source libraries doing this nice altruistic thing but I’m sure could do even better if only they didn’t have a “day job” or whatever.
And if the banks don’t want to give away too much information, they can just make sure to emphasise the general nature of whatever they help fund.