Emanuel Derman

The A word

Emanuel Derman
Feb 20, 2012 22:05 UTC

I recently ran into someone who I had always regarded as more or less compos mentis, but they told me quite seriously that the Rothschilds ran the world because they owned countries rather than corporations. Now, I’m not immune to the charms of conspiracy theories; some things in the world are so messed up that I can see how only a conspiracy could explain them. If a small cabal of invisible people ruled the world for their own profit and pleasure it very likely would turn out just the way it has, only probably a little more organized. Unless they are fiendishly clever and add the noise to make it look unplanned.

I think the real hidden conspiracy is the conspiracy of the A____’s and think they are to blame for screwing up the world, even if they are working in the service of the Rothschilds.

I refer to the Advertisers. I’m tired of anti-depressant ads. And I’m especially appalled at how advertising funds the fortunes of the giant internet companies, the manipulative G___’s and  F____’s.  I’ve grown to dislike advertising and the way it pays and affects so much. I particularly hate it for the fact that G___ and F____ make their money by delivering me to companies who pay for me to use it, which explains most of the bad things about G___ lately. Companies used to get paid for delivering eyeballs; now they get paid for delivering souls.

I wish people could pay their own money for what they want. There should be a law that prevents other people paying for your use of things if it compromises you, just like there’s a law against bribery. Maybe having entertainment that doesn’t violate you isn’t impossible — look at HBO and movies and books, still so far supported by paying customers.

I am sorry that a lot of Big Data (not all of it), a new and interesting field for quantitative people, is driven by pleasing advertisers too.

Very small, very transitory pleasures

Emanuel Derman
Feb 17, 2012 15:32 UTC

My carefully concealed always positive outlook on life is taking a beating these days, and the only pleasures are (i) attacking inconsistencies in other people’s positions and (ii) defending my own right to the same.

In that respect, the other day I received an email from my publisher, Simon and Schuster, exhorting me urgently to list not only Amazon on my website but Barnes and Noble too:

BN supports your book online and in stores and it’s crucial that they are represented.

My own private I dunno

Emanuel Derman
Feb 15, 2012 15:38 UTC

I have been reading The Connectome: How The Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are, by Sebastian Seung, a Professor of Computational Neuroscience and Physics at MIT, and formerly a theoretical physicist.

One of his talks on the web is called “I am my connectome.” My own private connectome usually has a sort of uncontrollable synaptic response to statements like that, which seems to deny itself, but that would be quibbling with PR, and so, having functioned my whole life while knowing nothing at all about my insides, I have enjoyed the first 60 pages.

But one paragraph on pages 63-64 did throw me off:

If I could observe the activity of all your neurons, I would be able to decode what your are perceiving or thinking. This kind of mind reading would require knowing the “neural code,” which you can picture as a huge dictionary. Each entry of the dictionary lists a distinct perception and its corresponding pattern of neural activity. In principle, we could compile this dictionary by recording the activity patterns generate by a huge number of stimuli.

Aggression vs triumphalism

Emanuel Derman
Feb 8, 2012 16:20 UTC

I watched two recent finals — The Australian Tennis Open (Djokovic vs. Nadal) and the Super Bowl (Giants vs. Patriots) and their endings were very different in spirit. I liked the Super Bowl ending better, surprisingly for me.

Tennis is a non-contact sport,  and even today you can’t foul your opponent. But when Djokovic won a close very exciting game filled with reversals, he went literally ape — snarled, looked up at the sky, roared several times with bared teeth, tore off his shirt, flexed his muscles.

Intimidating to the other apes, though the game was already over.

I understand being happy about winning, and aggression is necessary to do so, but I dislike this kind of triumphalist gloating. Personally, Borg and the other Swedes were my stylistic heroes, plus Sampras and Federer. Still, no one gets hurt and it’s not violent.

Love and money

Emanuel Derman
Feb 3, 2012 15:27 UTC

Some interesting stuff I’m reading:

Schopenhauer, in The World as Will and Representation, has a chapter on The Metaphysics of Sexual Love, and remarks how strange it is that love ceaselessly occupies people’s thoughts, interests and readings, and yet has gone relatively unexamined from a philosophical point of view. He brands as naive Spinoza’s view that love is merely pleasure associated with an external object, and I’m inclined to agree. For Schopenhauer, it’s all about matter propagating itself, the temporary unity of lovers’ feeling reflecting the unity of the yet unborn child. Strong mutual attraction, he says, is related to the suitability of the characteristics of the future child from the point of view of the species, and has nothing to do with personal lifelong compatibility. Not a cheerful guy.

Money, the other topic of people’s relentless focus, is a mystery, too. Where does it come from and what is its real purpose and how much does an economy need? Forty economists were recently quoted as saying that a return to the gold standard is ridiculous, and that money ought to be controlled according to economic principles (though I don’t think the forty agree on what those are). Ben Bernanke has said gold is NOT a form of money, but was still at a loss to explain why central banks keep gold reserves, and could only invoke tradition.

So, I am just about to reread Fischer Black’s interesting paper Banking and Interest Rates in a World without Money.