Wed Nov 13 15:26:26 EST 2013
I have been reading Barry Ritholtz', The Big Picture blog, regularly since 2008 and watching his star rise over the years. However, lately I have found him to be less interesting and not as informative, perhaps because there is little new and I know how he thinks and have already absorbed all he has to say.
But I wonder if like a stock that keeps going up, is Barry Ritholtz approaching bubble status? In addition to his blog and his Washington Post column and his increasing number of media appearances, here are some recent indications from his blog:
Getting Rid of Comments (February 2013)
Back in February 2013, he started censoring comments to his blog. Undoubtedly there were many that deserved it, but I know some did not. For example, comments about publishing all predictions in real time and not just mentioning months later the ones that worked out.
Site Redesign (March 2013)
Seems to me it is all about increasing the number of viewers in order to have more customers who will pay management fees for his investment advice.
- Wealth Management (September 2013)
- Bloomberg column (November 2013)
And similar to the value of a stock in a bubble, what is Barry's value proposition? On the one hand he touts the value of indexing, asset allocation, and low coast ETFs. On the other hand he wants a percent or two to do that for you without presenting any evidence that he can beat the market. Like all the talking heads he gives opinions of what might go up or down, but who can keep track of how that translates into making or losing money? Why do none of the market prognosticators have a public model portfolio with various bond and stock funds and ETFs that show they can do better than a general diversified basket of low cost ETFs with yearly rebalancing? Barry is better than most in that he has some humility, but I fear that as he reaches new heights, the selling of his image will have to grow too.
Thu Oct 31 17:17:07 EDT 2013
When discussing with scientists topics like free will, when/how did the universe begin, does it have an end, what was there before the beginning, etc, they usually disagree with my point of view that these questions are beyond the capabilities of our brains to comprehend. Instead most think it's just a matter of time (albeit maybe a long time) before we can understand everything. It seems obvious to me that this cannot be true, because we and our brains have evolved over time so that we can think and understand things lower animals cannot. But evolution will continue so humans and their brains will no longer be the top rung of the ladder and other species will evolve that can understand things we cannot. Along these line I was glad to see that Lord Martin Rees, Britain's Astronomer Royal, expresses similar thoughts in Financial Times Magazine:
"Thinking about life on Earth, most people see us as the culmination but we know the sun is only halfway through its life," he says. "There is no reason to think that we're the culmination. Even if there's no life beyond Earth now, we can imagine a post-human species spreading far beyond Earth. Moreover, any [human] evolution in the future will be on the technological timescale of centuries rather than the Darwinian timescale of millions of years."
. . .
Mind-boggling concepts such as the multiverse, string theory, dark energy, supersymmetry and hidden dimensions of space and time raise the question of whether we can ever grasp the deep realities of nature. Rees thinks not.
"It is remarkable that our brains, which have changed little since our ancestors roamed the African savannah, have allowed us to understand the counterintuitive worlds of the quantum and the cosmos," he says. But there is no reason to think that our comprehension is matched to an understanding of all key features of reality.
"Some of these insights may have to wait for post-human intelligence. There may be phenomena, crucial to our long-term destiny, which we are not aware of -- any more than a monkey comprehends the nature of stars and galaxies."
Thu Sep 19 21:06:15 EDT 2013
Items of Interest
Some web links I found to be of interest:
America No Longer Has a Functioning Judicial System
The Separation of Powers Which Define Our Democracy Have Been Destroyed.
Bush destroyed much of the separation of powers which made our country great. But under Obama, it's gotten worse.
Spying Program Doesn't Make Us Safer and Spying Leaks Don't Harm America
NSA Leaks Help -- Rather than Hurt -- the United States
America's top national security experts say that the NSA's mass surveillance program doesn't make us safer and that whistleblowers revealing the nature and extent of the program don't harm America.
The Tabarrok Curve: Why The Patent System Is Not Fit For Purpose
Dr. Tabarrok argued in his 2011 book "Launching the Innovation Renaissance" that patents cannot encourage innovation if they raise its costs. In fields where innovation is a cumulative process, he argued, restricting patents would cause firms to lose some of their monopoly rights, but they would gain the opportunity to use the innovations of others. "The result is greater total innovation."
Patents are supposed to prevent imitation, but in practice, imitation is often more costly than innovation. Most patent disputes are not about firms copying each other's inventions but about two companies discovering simultaneously the next step in an innovative process. Yet patent law can't easily handle that type of situation.
The Emerging Science of Memes
No one has any idea what makes something go viral in the first place. Attempts to predict what will go viral on the internet are based on the past behavior of a meme. As Coscia emphasizes in his work, no one has yet to rigorously demonstrate, in advance, why any particular type of content goes viral. This sort of prognostication remains an art rather than a science.
The Problem With Psychiatry, the DSM and the Way We Study Mental Illness
Psychiatry is under attack for not being scientific enough, but the real problem is its blindness to culture. When it comes to mental illness, we wear the disorders that come off the rack.
... Americans, for some reason, find it particularly difficult to grasp that mental illnesses are absolutely real and culturally shaped at the same time
Tue Aug 13 22:23:43 EDT 2013
Perpetual Money Machine
US economic policy over the past few decades reminds me of proposals for perpetual motion machines, which are known to be impossible because you can't create something (energy) out of nothing. The laws of thermodynamics say it is impossibled to create energy out of nothing. Similarly for wealth. How can financial manipulations create new wealth out of nothing? John Mauldin in his blog post We Can't Take the Chance under the section A Few Impossible Things" discusses this and what needs to change. Here are some select quotes:
Read the entire section A Few Impossible Things at We Can't Take the Chance.
Wed Jul 31 23:15:08 EDT 2013
Items of Interest
Some web links I found to be of interest:
- How much value does the finance industry create? -- Noah Smith
- Obama's terrorism speech: seeing what you want to see
- The three whoppers of Alan Dershowitz
- My Answer to John Hussman -- Cam Hui
- Luck and Skill Untangled: The Science of Success
- If Companies Are People ... A Fairer Corporate Tax
- Plan your digital afterlife with (google's) Inactive Account Manager
- Disability and Economic Inclusion
Sun Jun 23 20:13:32 EDT 2013
NSA, PRISM and Snowden
In all the discussions related to whistleblower Edward Snowden's
revelations about the NSA and the PRISM surveillance program,
first revealed by
Glen Greenwald in The Guardian,
there are some points I have not seen mentioned
and that I wonder about.
Addendum 06/24/2013: For some clues to possible answers see:The Dirty Little Secret About Mass Surveillance: It Doesn't Keep Us Safe Top National Security Experts: Spying Program Doesn't Make Us Safer, and Spying Leaks Don't Harm America
Mon Jun 10 01:09:09 EDT 2013
So, most predictions we remember are ones which were fabulously, wildly unexpected and then came true. Now, the person who makes that prediction has a strong incentive to remind everyone that they made that crazy prediction which came true. If you look at all the people, the economists, who talked about the financial crisis ahead of time, those guys harp on it constantly. "I was right, I was right, I was right." But if you're wrong, there's no person on the other side of the transaction who draws any real benefit from embarrassing you by bring up the bad prediction over and over. So there's nobody who has a strong incentive, usually, to go back and say, Here's the list of the 118 predictions that were false. And without any sort of market mechanism or incentive for keeping the prediction makers honest, there's lots of incentive to go out and to make these wild predictions.One participant in that podcast is Philip Tetlock whose book, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? was reviewed in The New Yorker back in December 2005. A more recent conversation (December 2012) with him can be found on Edge.org: Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), Tetlock is co-leader of The Good Judgment Project, one of five teams competing in the Aggregative Contingent Estimation (ACE) Program whose aim is to benchmark the accuracy of predictions and discover ways to improve that accuracy by using level playing field forecasting tournaments. To whet your appetite, here are 3 excerpts from the above Edge link.
So, we found three basic things: many pundits were hardpressed to do better than chance, were overconfident, and were reluctant to change their minds in response to new evidence. That combination doesn't exactly make for a flattering portrait of the punditocracy.
. . . One of the reactions to my work on expert political judgment was that it was politically naive; I was assuming that political analysts were in the business of making accurate predictions, whereas they're really in a different line of business altogether. They're in the business of flattering the prejudices of their base audience and they're in the business of entertaining their base audience and accuracy is a side constraint. They don't want to be caught in making an overt mistake so they generally are pretty skillful in avoiding being caught by using vague verbiage to disguise their predictions.
. . . The long and the short of the story is that it's very hard for professionals and executives to maintain their status if they can't maintain a certain mystique about their judgment. If they lose that mystique about their judgment, that's profoundly threatening. My inner sociologist says to me that when a good idea comes up against entrenched interests, the good idea typically fails. But this is going to be a hard thing to suppress. Level playing field forecasting tournaments are going to spread. They're going to proliferate. They're fun. They're informative. They're useful in both the private and public sector. There's going to be a movement in that direction. How it all sorts out is interesting. To what extent is it going to destabilize the existing pundit hierarchy? To what extent is it going to destabilize who the big shots are within organizations?
Sun May 26 23:15:31 EDT 2013
I've long thought that members of the Supreme Court
first decide what they want and then come up with reasons
to justify their beliefs.
This is similar to how most people behave,
except the Justices pretend they do so because that is
what the Constitution says.
NYT op-ed several months ago,
Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.
What has preserved our political stability is not a poetic piece of parchment, but entrenched institutions and habits of thought and, most important, the sense that we are one nation and must work out our differences.
If we acknowledged what should be obvious - that much constitutional language is broad enough to encompass an almost infinitely wide range of positions - we might have a very different attitude about the obligation to obey.
He gives several examples where justices and other politicians blatantly did what they thought was right in spite of the constitution and they all seem pretty reasonable in hindsight. And he also points out some other countries, like the United Kingdom and New Zeland, get along fine without a constitution.
There is also a very nice Russ Roberts podcast interview with the author at EconTalk for February 3, 2013. It's an hour long with a written transcript and especially informative when Seidman and Roberts disagree. Several more examples are given of how the constitution is used to justify whatever one wants or even ignored completely and furthermore he mentions that no where does it state that the Supreme Court has the last word on its meaning.
Sun Apr 28 23:01:51 EDT 2013
Dworkin on Scalia
I've written about the unreasonableness of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia before, so it's nice to see constitutional lawyer Noah Feldman add weight to my argument while commemorating the death of renowned legal scholar Ronald Dworkin:
In response to Scalia, Dworkin had a devastating riposte. How, he asked, did Scalia know that the judge's job was simply to apply the law? The Constitution never expressly says so, and in fact never specifies how it should be interpreted. The answer, Dworkin explained, was that Scalia had to rely on his own theory of the best moral vision for the country. In Scalia's political morality, judges should exercise restraint. But that belief itself was a product of interpretation and moral judgment -- and logically couldn't be otherwise. Scalia's "love affair with textual fidelity," as Dworkin put it, was therefore proof that he was interpreting the Constitution in the light of his moral judgment.
Sun Mar 31 22:06:40 EDT 2013
Items of Interest
Some web links I found to be of interest:
Rand Paul's reasonableness
The Economist takes Frank Bruni of the New York Times to task
concerning his comments about Rand Paul.
Rand Paul has not triangulated his positions on foreign policy, civil liberties or the war on drugs by starting from the GOP consensus and then tacking toward the bipartisan center. Rather, he had been moving mostly toward the Republican Party's standard line, beginning from a more thoroughly libertarian starting point. This has put Mr Paul nevertheless well to the left of mainstream Democrats on a number of issues, but also to the right of mainstream Republicans on others. Apparently this has left Mr Bruni, and no doubt many other unreflective liberals, somewhat confused.and
Were Mr Bruni better supplied with what Keats called "negative capability"--the ability to abide "in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason"--he might have been able to rest content with the observation that Mr Paul is, from a standard liberal's perspective, both better and worse than your typical ideological conservative.
How "Breakthrough Medical Findings" Disappear
by Keith Humphreys in the The Reality-Based Community blog.
diets and remedies are announced by scientists with regularity, yet in most cases subsequent research can't replicate the original "breakthrough".and
Why does this happen? Small studies do a poor job of reliably estimating the effects of medical interventions. For a small study (such as Sacks' and Leng's early work in the top two rows of the table) to get published, it needs to show a big effect - no one is interested in a small study that found nothing. It is likely that many other small studies of fish oil pills were conducted at the same time of Sacks' and Leng's, found no benefit and were therefore not published. But by the play of chance, it was only a matter of time before a small study found what looked like a big enough effect to warrant publication in a journal editor's eyes.
Our brains, and how they're not as simple as we think
Brightly coloured brain scans are a media favourite as they are both attractive to the eye and apparently easy to understand but in reality they represent some of the most complex scientific information we have. They are not maps of activity but maps of the outcome of complex statistical comparisons of blood flow that unevenly relate to actual brain function. This is a problem that scientists are painfully aware of but it is often glossed over when the results get into the press.and
You can see this selective reporting in how neuroscience is used in the media. Psychologist Cliodhna O'Connor and her colleagues investigated how brain science was reported across 10 years of newspaper coverage. Rather than reporting on evidence that most challenged pre-existing opinions, of which there is a great deal, neuroscience was typically cited as a form of "biological proof" to support the biases of the author.
Misguided Nostalgia for Our Paleo Past
To think of ourselves as misfits in our own time and of our own making flatly contradicts what we now understand about the way evolution works--namely, that rate matters. That evolution can be fast, slow, or in-between, and understanding what makes the difference is far more enlightening, and exciting, than holding our flabby modern selves up against a vision--accurate or not--of our well-muscled and harmoniously adapted ancestors.and
If they had known about evolution, would our cave-dwelling forebears have felt nostalgia for the days before they were bipedal, when life was good and the trees were a comfort zone? Scavenging prey from more-formidable predators, similar to what modern hyenas do, is thought to have preceded, or at least accompanied, actual hunting in human history. Were, then, those early hunter-gatherers convinced that swiping a gazelle from the lion that caught it was superior to that newfangled business of running it down yourself? And why stop there? Why not long to be aquatic, since life arose in the sea? In some ways, our lungs are still ill suited to breathing air. For that matter, it might be nice to be unicellular: After all, cancer arises because our differentiated tissues run amok. Single cells don't get cancer.
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us
Steven Brill's much publicized Time magazine article examining the problem of rising medical bills, including who is responsible for the high prices and profiting the most. (Full article only available to subscribers.)
Taken as a whole, these powerful institutions and the bills they churn out dominate the nation's economy and put demands on taxpayers to a degree unequaled anywhere else on earth. We now spend almost 20% of our gross domestic product on health care, compared with about half that in most developed countries. Yet in every measurable way, the results our health care system produces are no better and often worse than the outcomes in those countries.
The Brain Is Not Computable
Neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis says Kurzweil's Singularity isn't going to happen.
human consciousness (and if you believe in it, the soul) simply can't be replicated in silicon. That's because its most important features are the result of unpredictable, nonlinear interactions among billions of cellsand
the human brain creates models of tools and machines all the time, and brain implants will just extend that capability