THE PREDICTORS

HOW A BAND OF MAVERICK PHYSICISTS USED CHAOS THEORY TO TRADE THEIR WAY TO A FORTUNE ON WALL STREET

A business tale that takes a different path from start-up to success. Chaos theory has been a hot topic in science for decades but until now has had little to do with business. Here chaos theory, a “branch of knowledge good at finding order within disorder,” is exploited to develop an ambitious stock-trading tool. This intellectual quest is undertaken by a pair of physicists—Doyne Farmer and Norman Packard—in Santa Fe who had gained acclaim in academia for their endeavors, though their practical experience had been limited to a hobbyist-type effort. To beat the odds at roulette tables, they programmed a hidden computer to analyze patterns in the movement of roulette balls, an experience with positive results and the basis for Bass’s previous book The Eudaemonic Pie (1985). Moving from gambling to the stock market, they are tempted by the potential of stock trading, because, as one of the founders states, “even a small advantage can allow you to make a huge amount of money.” First, though, they have to wrestle with the usual hardships of business start-ups, including raising money and attracting a staff of expert programmers. Along the way, this story is illustrated with brief background explanations about chaos theory, as well as the workings of the stock market. Readers will not gain any practical information about how the resulting product works; this isn—t a how-to manual for harnessing the market. Yet it is educational in another way, as an inside look at an unusual collusion between science and commerce. In the end, the fledgling enterprise is backed by a large corporation, rewarding the founders amply for their efforts, even before their programming output has proven itself. One criticism: Most of the action takes place in Santa Fe, and local color such as architecture and culture frequently intrudes on the main theme. A fascinating story that suggests a wider future for one branch of physics and bigger rewards for businesses that support theoretical concepts.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 1999

ISBN: 0-8050-5756-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1999

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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BEATING THE STREET

More uncommonly sensible investment guidance from a master of the game. Drawing on his experience at Fidelity's Magellan Fund, a high- profile vehicle he quit at age 46 in 1990 after a spectacularly successful 13-year tenure as managing director, Lynch (One Up on Wall Street, 1988) makes a strong case for common stocks over bonds, CDs, or other forms of debt. In breezy, anecdotal fashion, the author also encourages individuals to go it alone in the market rather than to bank on money managers whose performance seldom justifies their generous compensation. With the caveat that there's as much art as science to picking issues with upside potential, Lynch commends legwork and observation. ``Spending more time at the mall,'' he argues, invariably is a better way to unearth appreciation candidates than relying on technical, timing, or other costly divining services prized by professionals. The author provides detailed briefings on how he researches industries, special situations, and mutual funds. Particularly instructive are his candid discussions of where he went wrong as well as right in his search for undervalued securities. Throughout the genial text, Lynch offers wry, on-target advisories under the rubric of ``Peter's Principles.'' Commenting on the profits that have accrued to those acquiring shares in enterprises privatized by the British government, he notes: ``Whatever the Queen is selling, buy it.'' In praise of corporate parsimony, the author suggests that, ``all else being equal, invest in the company with the fewest photos in the annual report.'' Another bull's-eye for a consummate pro, with appeal for market veterans and rookies alike. (Charts and tabular material— not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-671-75915-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1993

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