Mata Amrita Index needs a new dimension

Some of the hugs look too flimsy for a 10-year reunion

As anyone here who has tried to construct an index will know, any index, however well constructed, will end up being way too simplistic, and abstract away way too much information. This is especially true of indices that are constructed as weighted averages of different quantities, but even indices with more “fundamental” formulae are not immune to this effect.

Some eight years ago, I constructed an index called the “Mata Amrita Index“, which my good friend Sangeet describes as the “best ever probabilistic measure” he’s come across. It’s exactly that – a probabilistic measure.

Quoting from the blog post where I introduced the concept:

The Mata Amrita Index for a person is defined as the likelihood of him or her hugging the next random person he/she meets.

Actually over time I’ve come to prefer what I’d called the “bilateral MAI”, which is the probability that a given pair of people will hug each other the next time they meet. The metric has proved more useful than I had initially imagined, and has in a way helped me track how some friendships are going. So far so good.

But it has a major shortcoming – it utterly fails to capture quality. There are some people, for example, who I don’t hug every time I meet them, but on the random occasions when we do hug, it turns out to be incredibly affectionate and warm. And there are some other people, with whom my bilateral MAI tends to 1, but where the hug is more of a ritual than a genuine expression of affection. We hug every time, but the impact of the hug on how I feel is negligible.

In fact, I’d written about this a couple years back, that when the MAI becomes too high, the quality and the impact of the hug inevitably suffers. Apart from the ritualness of the hug robbing it of the warmth, a high MAI also results in lack of information flow – you know you hug as a rule, so the hug conveys no information.

So, now I want to extend the MAI (all good index builders do this – try to extend it when they realise its inadequacies) to incorporate quality as well. And like any index extension, the problem is to be able to achieve this without making the index too unwieldy. Right now, the index is a probabilistic measure, but not that hard to understand. It’s also easy to adjust your bilateral MAI with someone every time you meet.

How do you think I can suitably modify the MAI to bring in the quality aspect? One measure I can think of is “what proportion of the time when you meet do you hug, and it makes you feel real good?”. As you can see it’s already complicated, but this brings in the quality component. The ritual hug with the high MAI counterparty makes no impact on you, so your modified MAI with that person will be low.

The problem with this Modified MAI (MMAI) is that it is automatically capped by the MAI, given the “AND” condition in its definition. So a person you hug infrequently, but feel incredibly good after each such hug, will have a low MMAI with you – it’s more to do with the low frequency of hugging than the quality.

If you can think of a more elegant measure, do let me know! Whoever said building an index is a simple process!

Hug Theories

This is some kind of a chow-chow bhath post – I’ve aggregated several concepts related to hugging and the Mata Amrita Index and am putting them in one place.

Firstly, is hugging a cost or a benefit? This thought came to my head recently when I was really thankful to a friend and wanted to express my appreciation by giving her a hug. Then, doubts crept into mind if she would actually consider a hug from me as a reward, and I finally ended up desisting. So the basic funda is would she consider hugging me as a cost or as a benefit? If the former, my thank you hug would have the adverse effect, while it would’ve been just fine if it were the latter.

And what about me? I was thinking of hugging her as “a reward”. What does that say about my mindset about hugging her? Do I consider it as a cost or as a benefit? If the latter, I’m not really being thankful to her but am just using the occasion to put hug. And if I considered hugging her as a “cost” would I be able to hug her properly enough for her to feel my gratitude?

Then, how does this tie in with the bilateral Mata Amrita Index? Is it obvious that if both of us consider hugging each other as a cost, our bilateral MAI will be low? Is it obvious that if both of us consider hugging each other as a benefit, our BMAI will be high? What if I consider hugging you as a cost while you consider it as a benefit? How will our BMAI profile be? Let me know what you think about this.

The other thing I want to rant about is this concept of a “half-hug” or a “sideways-hug” where only the shoulders of the huggers touch each other, and most of the rest of the torsoes are separated. People say that this is usually used with acquaintances, and in social occasions. I fundamentally dislike this concept. It’s neither here nor there, and I believe that this creates discomfort in both parties. If at least one of the two parties considers hugging the other as a cost, this half-hug will be on the whole uncomfortable (from my limited experience, you can’t enjoy a hug if at least one of the parties is not feeling comfortable). Is it really worth it? Wouldn’t it be better to just shake hands?

So I fail to understand how this concept has still survived. Wouldn’t a judicious combination of handshake and proper hug be enough to eliminate this? On my part, I’m doing my best in order to not half-hug/side-hug. If I’m completely comfortable with the counterparty, I put full hug. Else handshake. And call me homophobic, but as a rule I don’t hug other guys.

Another question is how do you hug when one of you is significantly taller than the other? Priyanka, who claims to be an expert on the subject, says that one option is for the taller person to marginally lift the shorter person to bring him/her to the same level, but isn’t that too cumbersome? Does there exist a more elegant solution to this problem? And don’t suggest sideways-hug – I don’t want one party to be smelling the other’s armpits.

IPL Structuring

I remember that this time, last year, I was eagerly looking forward to the IPL auctions. It also happened to be a time when I was actively looking out for a new job (i wasn’t going to find one till about six months later). And I was secretly hoping that one of the IPL franchises would employ me as a game theory and structuring consultant in order to help them out with the player auctions. While I tracked it online, I imagined myself sitting in the bidding room at the Trident, showing my excel sheet to the franchise owner and captain, and watch Preity Zinta enhance her Mata Amrita Index.

It was also a period of extreme NED, due to which i didn’t bother looking out actively to try consult for an IPL franchise. It was a period of low confidence, so I assumed I wasn’t good enough for this kind of work, and didnt’ bother doing anything in this direction. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue how to proceed, else i might have put SOME effort at least. A few months later, when the IPL was well underway, I figured out that one of my cousins is a big shot with Bangalore Royal Challengers, and he was among the people at the Trident who picked the Test XI to represent BRC. I wanted to kick myself, but for some reason I didn’t.

Currently, I’m comfortably employed, and so far have been happy with this job. Else I might have wanted to throw my hat into the ring. Once again, IPL team formation season is on. A few transfers have gone through already, and a few are currently in limbo. Bidding will happen next season for people who are joining the league this year. It promises to be an interesting time. And so far I’ve been deeply unhappy with the way the franchises are going about their business.

I’m especially upset with BRC, and have half a mind to call up my cousin who consults for them and give him a piece of my mind. How the hell could they let go of Zaheer Khan in exchage for Robin Uthappa? Yes, the latter is from Bangalore, and has that local pull factor. He has batted quite well this Ranji, though not anywhere close to what he played like 2 seasons back when he topped the batting charts. But he is supposed to be paid twice of what Zaheer was being paid! Is he really worth that much? I’m sure that BRC missed a trick here. I’m sure that had the BRC asked for a fee from Mumbai Indians in order to release Zaheer in exchange for Uthappa, the Indians would’ve definitely paid up. When Chelski can reportedly offer Anelka, Malouda, Alex and 15 million pounds in exchange for Robinho, Mumbai could definitely part with Uthappa and maybe a million dollars in exchange for Zaheer.

There were rumours of the Mumbai Indians negotiating a swap with Kings XI Punjab for a swap between Powar and Harbhajan, which reportedly got stalled because Harbhajan earns so much more than Powar. Once again, what if the Mumbai Indians paid a fee along with Harbhajan for Powar? I know it is ridiculous that Powar is worth Harbhajan plus a fee, but given their disparity in income, this is the only way that this deal is possible. And I’m sure that there is a particular fee, which if paid along with Harbhajan in exchange for Powar, will leave all the interested parties (Punjab, Mumbai, Harbhajan, Powar) better off. It seems like people are too lazy to find it.

The opportunities like this are endless. All that the franchises need is someone who has sufficient knowledge of game theory, coase theorem, a decent knowledge of cricket (interest in domestic cricket is a desirable quality) and who understands how to structure deals. I don’t know if franchises have already recruited such people but if they haven’t, they should try and recruit. The most obvious choice of person that I can think of who possesses all the above skills (including interest in domestic cricket) is me. Unlike last year, I’m not in the job market right now, but don’t mind doing some part-time stuff. I may not get paid, but I’m willing to work for a few IPL tickets and maybe invites to some parties with cricketers.

I’m also wondering if cricketers’ pay will go down starting the 2011 season onwards. The IPL auctions happened just before the downturn was to begin, and I’m sure that franchises have overpaid for most players. Since players have all signed three year contracts, their pay till the 2010 season is safe. Beyond that, I’m not sure if franchises will offer them fresh contracts at higher or equal salaries.

It would also be interesting to see if some version of the Bosman ruling is to operate in the IPL. We can only wait and see.