Archive for June, 2003

Fooled by randomness

June 22, 2003

In his recent book, Fooled by Randomness, hedge-fund operator Nassim Taleb twists a familiar saying to provide an analogy for people (such as, say, some mutual fund investors) who make investments based solely on past performance:

If one puts an infinite number of monkeys in front of (strongly built) typewriters, and lets them clap away, there is a certainty that one of them would come out with an exact version of the Iliad. […] Now that we have found that hero among monkeys, would any reader invest his life’s savings on a bet that the monkey would write the Odyssey next?

[…] Think about the monkey showing up at your door with his impressive past performance. Hey, he wrote the Iliad. Quickly, sign him up for the sequel.


Ruling families

June 5, 2003

An odd quirk of history: A Churchill led England in 1704 at the beginning of her days of glory, and a Churchill led her in 1945 at their end.

(G. K. Chesterton once made a similar remark, though he meant it disparagingly, about the Cecil family.