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jerryking : cultural_anthropology   3

Coronavirus, Ray Dalio and forecasting in an age of uncertainty
March 18, 2020 | Financial Times | by Gillian Tett.

** Against the Gods: the Remarkable Story of Risk by Peter Bernstein.
** Uncharted by Margaret Heffernan.
** Radical Uncertainty by Mervyn King and John Kay.

Ray Dalio, founder Bridgewater Associates, admitted that he had been caught flat-footed by the recent coronavirus-driven market swings. .... It seems that the systems that Bridgewater developed to analyse the flows of finance and economic activities — which have traditionally driven its bets on the direction of stocks, bonds and other securities — did not offer any guidance when looking at a rare event such as the current pandemic. “We did not know how to navigate the virus and chose not to because we didn’t think we had an edge in trading it,” Dalio went on to explain. “So, we stayed in our positions and, in retrospect, we should have cut all risk.”
Now, many readers may feel baffled by this, given that the whole point of investing with a hedge fund is that they are supposed to beat the markets at times of stress....scorn is the wrong response here.....What is interesting to ponder is what this episode reveals about the nature of forecasting — and our modern attitudes towards time.
......the way we think about time is a defining feature of the post-enlightenment world. During much of human history, the future was viewed as a vague and terrifyingly unknowable blur marked by constant bargaining with deities (to ward off disaster) or cyclical seasonal rhythms (of the sort that underscore Buddhist cognitive maps). In modern, post-enlightenment western cultures, however, a linear vision of time emerged that presumes the past can be extrapolated into the future, with a sense of progression, not just cyclicality.

In the 20th century, this gave birth to the risk management and finance professions, as Peter Bernstein wrote two decades ago in his brilliant book Against the Gods: the Remarkable Story of Risk.
....... By 2000, innovations such as computing and the internet were turbocharging the forecasting business to an extraordinary degree, “Human discomfort with uncertainty . . . has fuelled an industry that enriches itself by terrorising us with uncertainty and taunting us with certainty,” However, while the forecasting business has made its “experts” very rich, it is also based on a fallacy: the idea that the future can be neatly extrapolated from the past. Moreover, the apparent success of some pundits in predicting events (such as the 2008 crash) makes them so overconfident that they get locked into particularly rigid models. “The harder economists try to identify sure-fire methods of predicting markets, the more such insight eludes them,”

Is there a solution? Heffernan’s answer is to embrace uncertainty, build resilience, use “narrative” (or qualitative) analyses instead of rigid models and to respect the wisdom of diverse views to avoid tunnel vision.

..........accept radical uncertainty and rethink our models......models (whether they emerge from computer science or economics) are like a compass in a dark wood at night. Navigation tools can give you a sense of direction and orientation; it would be ridiculous to toss them out entirely.

However, if you rely exclusively on them, accidents occur. If you walk through a wood just looking down at the dial of a compass, you will bang into a tree or worse. The trick, then, is to use navigation aids but also to maintain your peripheral vision..........the insights of cultural anthropology is one way to maintain peripheral vision, since it provides a social context for looking at our favoured tools (and thus a way to see their shortcomings).........Either way, now more than ever, we need broader perspectives — and humility — when trying to assess what might happen next, not just with the markets but with the coronavirus outbreak too.
books  Bridgewater  COVID-19  cultural_anthropology  extrapolations  fallacies_follies  forecasting  Gilliam_Tett  hedge_funds  heterogeneity  humility  linearity  mistakes  modelling  pandemics  peripheral_vision  Peter_Bernstein  predictive_modeling  qualitative  Ray_Dalio  risk-management  resilience  shortcomings  turbulence  uncertainty 
20 days ago by jerryking
‘An Anthropologist on Wall Street’ — Cultural Anthropology
Tett, Gillian. "‘An Anthropologist on Wall Street’." Theorizing the Contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, May 16, 2012.

Anthropology can be extremely useful for understanding the contemporary financial world because of all the micro-level communities—or ‘tribes’ to use the cliché term—that are cropping up around the financial system....The event pulled together bankers from all over. They staged formalized rituals with PowerPoint presentations, but also engaged in informal rituals like chitchat in the wings.

As they came together and talked, these bankers were creating a network of ties. But they were also inventing a new language they felt made them distinctive from everyone else. The way they talked about credit was to emphasize the numbers and to quite deliberately exclude any mention of social interaction from the debate and discussion. In the first couple of days I sat there, they almost never mentioned the human borrower who was at the end of that securitization chain. They were also very exclusive. There was a sense that ‘we alone have mastery over this knowledge’....Part two of the CDO gospel was that bankers had had this sudden inspiration that they should stop concentrating credit risk and find ways to scatter it across the system....Looking back there were many elements of securitization that were evidently flawed. The tools bankers were using to disburse risk across the system were themselves very opaque and complex. The very way by which they disbursed risk was actually introducing new risk into the system.......fundamental contradiction at the very heart of the system that almost nobody spotted. Why not? To put it crudely, because there were too few anthropologists, using basic anthropological techniques, trying to understand what was going on. Having an anthropological perspective is very useful. The very nature of anthropology is to try to connect up the dots. That’s something that most modern bureaucrats, most bankers, and most company executives are not able to do, precisely because they’re so darn busy running around in their silos.
Wall_Street  Gillian_Tett  anthropologists  financial_system  securitization  finance  ethnographic  insights  CDOs  connecting_the_dots  cultural_anthropology  anthropology  tribes  silo_mentality 
march 2017 by jerryking
Hit the Ground Running--Or Else the perils of a new job
March 6, 2000 | Fortune Magazine | By Dan Ciampa.

What's the main reason people from the outside fail?

They don't read the culture of the place that they're joining.

Is that why you say a new person needs to be a cultural anthropologist?

Yes. In general, I think the most effective way to read the culture is to look at the artifacts--that's what an anthropologist does. What does it say that people greet you the way they do? What does it say that meetings are run the way they are? There are some organizations that eschew meetings. Well, that says something about what works and what doesn't in that culture, and it says something about the skills of the people who survive there.

What if you've been brought in to make change?

It's important to understand what you're going to change before you change it. I'd say that even if the board or the chairman has brought you in because of what you've done in the past, there's a lot that you don't know. And the degree to which you find those things out is a function of people's trusting you. The only way you can do that is by not coming in as though you're Attila the Hun--not coming in as though you have the answer--but rather coming in and asking more questions than making declarative statements, especially in the first several weeks. ....on day one you have a plan to make sure that the first 30 days are really successful.
first90days  outsiders  Michael_Watkins  failure  questions  pilot_programs  alliances  hiring  anthropologists  anthropology  unknowns  organizational_culture  change  change_agents  artifacts  cultural_anthropology 
december 2012 by jerryking

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