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.

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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.