Summer is for experimenting with new books! Our favorite reads from this summer include
The Ascent of Money
Our Rating: ★★★★★
Observations: Entertaining and enjoyable read about the history of finance from a prominent historian. Maps the most important developments from the first forms of money (in 600bc) through the financial crisis of 2008.
Our Rating: ★★★★
Amazon Rating: ★★★★
Observations: Very challenging read (each page is extremely dense), but amazing in the scope and reach of these ideas. Details the history and future paths for a general artificial intelligence that would surpass human intelligence.
The Master Algorithm
Our Rating: ★★★★
Amazon Rating: ★★★★
Observations: Excellent read on the current state of machine learning and the search for the “learning algorithm” that would be heart of any general artificial intelligence. Very informative about the different learning algorithms used today (symbolists, connectionists, evolutionaries, Bayesians, and analogizers) and their limitations. Also offers strategies for people as machine learning continues to reduce the need for certain human jobs.
Our Rating: ★★★.5
Amazon Rating: ★★★★.5
Observations: This is the story of Steven Cohen, SAC Capital and the U.S. government’s insider trading case against them. This story served as inspiration for the Billions series on Showtime. Extremely well researched, presents some damning facts about Steven Cohen, but ultimately told from a reporter’s perspective (not from a financial insider’s point of view).
The Truth Machine:The Blockchain and the Future of Everything
by Casey & Vigna
Our Rating: ★★★
Amazon Rating: ★★★.5
Observations: The second book about Bitcoin / Blockchain from these former WSJ reporters affiliated with MIT’s Digital Currency Initiative. Lots of interesting background information about Bitcoin’s power struggles, the ICO market, enterprise blockchains, and more. Interesting reading, but not compelling in our view.
Key insights from Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money
- Financial innovations have helped to allocate capital more effectively over time
- Financial markets are evolutionary (typically) and inherently uncertain (e.g., true uncertainty such as the outbreak of World War 1)
- The financial world is more interconnected, but interconnectedness has not historically averted political conflicts
- Finance can reflect the prejudices of people (e.g., banks need to be regulated in order to offer loans to unbanked populations)
- Financial markets tend toward increased depth over time (e.g., the rise of hedge funds)
- Government policy has a major impact on economics and markets (e.g., IMF / World Bank, Medicare, Social Security, etc.)
- Knowing financial history is important because major unexpected events tend to fade from memory and then recur
The author of The Master Algorithm, his view of automation and its impact on jobs.
An interesting question for all of us is to what extent we can expect automation to decrease the number of jobs available to humans.
Domingo’s view is as follows:
- As machine learning continues to take hold in the economy, Domingo seeks creeping unemployment, downward pressure on wages and increasing rewards for fewer and fewer who have jobs that cannot be automated.
- The best strategy for not losing your job is to automate it yourself.Then you’ll have time for all the tasks that you didn’t have time to do before and those tasks that the computer won’t be able to do anytime soon.
- If all of the tasks associated with your job can be automated, he recommends, “to stay ahead of the curve” and get a new job now.If a computer has learned to do your job, do not try to compete with it, harness it.
- The real story of automation is not what it replaces, but what it can enable.Some professionals will disappear, but others will be born.
- Domingo believes that some professionals will be truly irreplaceable because their jobs require the one thing that computers and robots by definition cannot have:the human experience.By that, he means the humanities, whose domain is precisely everything you cannot understand without the experience of being human.
- The future belongs to those who understand at a very deep level how to combine their unique expertise with what algorithms do best.