Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Review: The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us

This is a fun book to read and eye opener to many people. If you have been reading about behavioral economics then it is not as new. Some illusions are useful and other are just page fillers.

Chapter 1 - Illusion of Attention, or, the belief that we are attentive to much more than we actually are at any given moment.

  • What the authors mean here is that we only pay attention to things we expect to see.
  • In case of driving pay extra attention to the unknown.
Chapter 2 - Illusion of Memory, or, the illusion that our memories are much more exact than they are.

Chapter 3 - Illusion of Confidence, or, the illusion that confidence (in others) is a good sign of competence.
  • This is one of the best illusions people fall for easily whether when interviewing people or in a business meeting or at college campus.
  • Most extroverted people show more confidence than introverted people. Does that confidence lead to competence?
  • Statistically Extroverted people and introverted people show the same amount of competence in accomplishing a task.

Chapter 4 - Illusion of Knowledge, or, the illusion that we have detailed knowledge about many things that, in fact, we only have vague knowledge of.

Chapter 5 - Illusion of Cause, or, the illusion that two things happening sequentially necessarily signifies cause/effect relationship.
  • This illusion is mostly seen in financial markets.
  • Most important thing to remember is correlation does not mean causality. Economic variables can show correlation for long periods of time before they break and it could be merely coincidental that they behaved that way.

Chapter 6 - Illusion of Potential, or, the illusion that in every human, there is a vast array of untapped potential waiting to come out (if only we learn to use more of our brains, listen to Mozart, "train our brains" etc.)
  • Most of the brain improvements techniques like playing Video Games, Chess or solving cross word puzzles statistically have proven not to improve the brain.
  • People who are good at Chess naturally have good IQs but you cannot say that their Chess game improved their IQ.
  • Physical Exercise improves brain more than any of the other activities.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Review of Fooled By randomness!

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

I enjoyed this book and kudos to Taleb for making such a dry subject very interesting.

I prefer this book over the Black Swan since this book attacks all uncertainties in life than Black Swan which is focused on just one type of uncertainty.

My biggest beef is when Taleb proudly proclaims - "Instead of immediate philosophizing and working at McDonald's, he went to work as a trader to become financially secure"

Now Taleb is it not the whole idea of your book that many people are stuck in dead end jobs, suffer misfortunes or experience bad health just because of pure randomness in life in-spite of their best efforts and advises people to practice stoicism?

It looks like you did not follow your own advice by deterministically trying pursue illusory financial freedom at the same time making fun of Carlos and John who were trying to do the same.

My personal experience has been you need to have personal conviction about your positions in order to make money in the markets. Yes you could go wrong and lose your ass as happened to Carlos and John. But even the most successful investors/traders like Warren Buffet and George Soros had personal conviction. Do you really think Soros bet billions against the British Pound without personal conviction that he is going to make a profit?

Taleb is right on one aspect which is we need to have an open mind and review ones position constantly but not having personal conviction on your position is a sure way for mediocrity.

Peter Lynch clearly put it - "Show me a trader who always has a 10% stop loss and I will show you a portfolio with 10% loss"