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UCI does it again!

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Killer instinct In the immortal words of Brittany Spears, UC Irvine says, "Oops, I did it again" as they dance toward their third Nobel Prize. 

UC Irvine, a sleepy little UC campus nestled between Newport Beach and Santa Ana in the heart of Orange County has a great track record in accumulating Nobel prizes.  If they win one this year in the newly minted field of Social-Computational-Criminology, the winner will join Frederick Reines and Sherwood F. Rowland as prize winners associated with the campus.   What's got the chancellor so excited about this year's prospects?   Chancellor

Gillman says "It's the combination of a new Nobel category combined with research from two of the most influential and high profile research areas being conducted at our university."  The two areas?  Criminology and Computer Sciences.  "Modern big data techniques and analytics have been at the forefront of science for a few years now, but through a complete random fluke, professors from both schools discovered they were working on two sides of the same coin," Gillman added.  

What coin is that?  Apparently serial killers and serial entrepreneurs are wired with the same physiologically .  Killer instincts and killer apps both come from the same place.  While that may seem like an unlikely pairing, professors from both the Criminology and Computer Sciences school don't think so.

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It's all in your mind

It's and idea that had been percolating for a while in some of the faculty's seminars.  It's a lecture UC Irvine neuroscientist James Fallon has delivered around the world, even on the hit TV show "Criminal Minds." Discussing the biological traits of murderers, Fallon describes how he correctly identified 30 killers out of 70 subjects in a double-blind experiment simply by studying their brain scans. Audiences are fascinated.

But a couple years ago, he got a call from a concerned citizen who'd watched a video of the talk: his mother.

"She said, 'I see you're going around lecturing about psychopathic killers,'" Fallon recalls. "'You're speaking as if you come from a normal family. Did you know there are murderers in our family tree?'"

That's when his brain research took a twist worthy of Agatha Christie.

We always knew that serial killers were a little off, but nobody, simply nobody would have thought that our research would apply to serial entrepreneurs.

A cousin had done some sleuthing, and Fallon learned of eight potential killers among his ancestors, starting with Thomas Cornell, who was hanged in 1673 for murdering his mother — the first case of matricide in colonial America. Lizzie Borden, who was tried but acquitted in the hatchet deaths of her father and stepmother in 1892, is a distant cousin in that same Cornell branch.

"Mom's happy the killers are on my father's side of the family," Fallon jokes.

Just for fun, he decided to find out who among his living relatives might be genetically predisposed to murder. (He undertook the tongue-in-cheek investigation to satisfy his own curiosity; his findings are anecdotal and have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.)

I wanted to see who had the high-risk genes, who the 'evil' one was lurking in our midst.

"It became a parlor game. I wanted to see who had the high-risk genes, who the 'evil' one was lurking in our midst," he says. "The kids, my brothers, my wife, my mom — everyone was buzzing about it. It was a new thing for us to argue about."

Fallon compared eight family members' DNA samples and brain scans with those of killers. The results, he says, proved "slightly embarrassing." He had gone looking for a potential murderer — and found one in the mirror.

"The joke was on me," he says. "It turned out I was the ruffian. I have the exact brain pattern of a psychopathic killer." Scans showed that his orbital cortex — the gray matter believed to be involved in social adjustment, ethics, morality, and the suppression of impulsivity and aggression — is inactive, as it is in many criminals. He also has all five major gene variants linked to aggression.


Serial, Serial everywhere, but not a drop to eat

The real breakthrough came when Fallon and some of his colleagues were having a coffee discussion at the student center.   One of the demographic big data scientists in the DARPA funded research project on humane profiling glanced over and recognized his racial demographics chart.   After being momentarily confused as to why someone else would have his research, they both discovered that the racial distribution of serial killers and serial entrepreneurs is exactly the same. 

Professor Hiles of the Computer Science and Women's Studies who oversees the research group said it best.  While diminished profitability and lack of diversity studies are well known, the Radford University Studies on Serial Killer statistics haven't been applied to serial entrepreneurs.  When taking a look through that lens, the results are nothing but Nobel worthy. "I graduated from UC Berkeley and got an MBA in finance from Yale. I’ve been a successful serial entrepreneur, and I give back to many communities through my membership on boards and other contributions. My resume is long, and people often describe me as “successful.” I suppose being “the one” is supposed to make me feel special, or better than others, but it doesn’t. Just when I’m tempted to revel in my success, the reality that the chances of scaling my company are stacked against me hits me in the face. In my day-to-day reality, I can’t afford to spend time thinking about the opportunities I may have missed because of who I am.

There is a mountain of research that shows funding only people who are white and male diminishes innovation and reduces profitability."

The market for that innovation and profitability is huge, though the distribution of that market runs the gamut of allocative distribution.  Researchers in both groups found disturbing trends.  "Unlike previous demographic data where we found a correlation between skirt length and economic prosperity, blue cars and insane drivers, we found an exact relationship between serial entrepreneurs and serial killers," said one researcher.  The facts seem to support his conclusions.   Taking into account companies that were started by serial entrepreneurs and isolating them for only ones that have taken VC funding which produced a cumulative value of more than $500 million in 2015 adjusted dollars, the two charts aren't similar--they look exactly the same.


Pennies, Pounds, and Percentages

After the discovery, there was no small sense of irony when the group of criminologists flatly stated, "Wow, those guys are making a killing!"  While the charts look beneficial on the surface, the distribution of value is far from even.   Similar to the racial distribution of serial killers, researchers then delved into the racial distribution of serial entrepreneurs.   What they found next would be fodder for an X-files episode rather than for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.  They found that the racial distributions of both are exactly the same. 

Killer Apps and Killer Instincts

When looking at why people start companies, researchers started with current criminology reference manuals.

Who knows what lurks inside the mind of serial-entrepreneurs?  Profit, revenge, jealousy, to conceal a crime, to avoid humiliation and disgrace, or plain old serial-mania.  Right there in the manual. 

Miles weighed in again on the magical correlations and parallels.  "We thought the initial big data calculations were a fluke, but when you factor in gender too, there doesn't leave a lot of room for adjusting the data to fit the model.   The data IS the model." As an African-American lesbian in the U.S. who has raised $12M for my tech company so far, I have many different feelings when I read about Silicon Valley capitalists not investing in people like me. I wonder how many more studies need to be commissioned to show companies are more successful with diverse leadership and workforces. Silicon Valley touts itself as the most innovative site of productivity in the world, yet Forbes has extensively studied how lack of diversity diminishes innovation. Silicon Valley needs to wake up and move beyond the same group of players.


A fine line between life-balance and lives in the balance

At the end of the day, Professor Miles found she was much happier with her serial entrepreneur endeavors.   When asked to comment on the recent news noted at the beginning of this article about a new category of Nobel Prize, she demurred to the university for comment.   Off the record, the Vice Chancellor states that "if awarded, Miles would refuse the award to protest the inequalities.   The momentum to award someone such a prestigious award at UCI continues to build, but without a conferee, the prestige of the school is at risk."  According to the Vice Chancellor, a call has been put out to both schools to find a suitable replacement for the award that is deeply involved in the research.  Rather than clarifying the situation, this has caused a mildly competitive paper chase.  Students in both the computer science and criminology schools have began sharpening their knives and preparing their battle-axes--literally.   To help dispel the friction, both schools have agreed to host a joint conference, TWIST'15, The Workshop on Inter-Studies for Treachery, though some researchers have balked at the strict no weapons policy and the purposeful non-inclusion of a session on murderous intent.    The conference has also had trouble lining up speakers with Marc Andreesen and Ben Horowitz declining, but offering Chris Dixon and Fred Wilson in their stead.   The conference, despite its problems is shaping up to be the event of the year as the Nobel mania reaches a homicidal climax. 

One student, Graham C. Kazinsky, related to the infamous former academic of some note, has already shared his notes on his keynote presentation in a bid to be the Nobel prize frontrunner.    When asked how he came up with the concept, he mumbled something about a forgetful colleague leaving notes by a water fountain.  


Aamodt, M. G. (2014, September 6). Serial killer statistics. Retrieved (4/1/2015) from killer information center/projectdescription.htm (c) 2015 UC Irvine Social Computational Criminology studies department.

Someone has studied serial killers extensively. 

There's a fine line between CEOs and Hannibal.

"It'a a lot of work not getting caught" - that's the sauce!

THAT'S what serial killers and serial entrepreneurs have in common?!

Yes! A good sense of humor!

It's a long, difficult journey, so a sense of humor is probably important just to keep things from getting repetitive.

Especially on those special dates on the calendars!

There are other special dates besides April 1? :)

Sure, wife's birthday, anniversary, Easter, Christmas, etc!  All special dates to remember if you are a serial entrepreneur!

Heh heh. I find it helps to not have too many special days. 

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