52 books of 2018

I read a little over 50 books in 2018. Eight of those turned out to be really good:

  1. Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past Book 3), Cixin Liu  
  2. More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite, Sebastian Mallaby
  3. The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur Book 1), Hannu Rajaniemi
  4. The Utopia Chronicles (Atopia Book 3), Matthew Mather
  5. The Fabric of Reality: Towards a Theory of Everything (Penguin Science), David Deutsch
  6. Fed Up: An Insider’s Take on Why the Federal Reserve is Bad for America, Danielle DiMartino Booth
  7. After On: A Novel of Silicon Valley, Rob Reid
  8. The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect: a novel of the singularity, Roger Williams

Luckily, only a handful truly sucked:

  1. A Scanner Darkly
  2. Dark Matter (SW Ahmed)
  3. The Mote In God’s Eye
  4. Becoming, Michelle Obama

Here is the list for 2018:

  1. Consider Phlebas: A Culture Novel (Culture series Book 1), Iain M. Banks
  2. All Systems Red (Kindle Single): The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells
  3. The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur Book 1), Hannu Rajaniemi
  4. Into the Black [Remastered Edition] (Odyssey One Book 1), Evan Currie
  5. Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past Book 3), Cixin Liu  
  6. The Singularity Trap, Dennis E. Taylor
  7. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B. Peterson
  8. Defiance: Prequel to The Legacy Human (Singularity Series Book 4), Susan Kaye Quinn 
  9. Big Debt Crises, Ray Dalio
  10. The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes, Steven Pinker
  11. The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past Book 2), Cixin Liu
  12. Once Dead (The Rho Agenda Inception Book 1), Richard Phillips
  13. A Scanner Darkly, Philip K. Dick
  14. The Utopia Chronicles (Atopia Book 3), Matthew Mather
  15. The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past Book 1), Cixin Liu
  16. All These Worlds (Bobiverse Book 3), Dennis Taylor
  17. For We Are Many (Bobiverse Book 2), Dennis Taylor
  18. We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse Book 1), Dennis Taylor
  19. The Age of Em: Work, Love, and Life when Robots Rule the Earth, Robin Hanson
  20. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think, Hans Rosling
  21. The Fringe Worlds: (The Human Chronicles Saga — Book 1), T.R. Harris
  22. Dark Matter: A Novel, Blake Crouch
  23. Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
  24. Engineering Infinity (The Infinity Project Book 1), Charles Stross
  25. The Mote in God’s Eye (Mote Series Book 1), Larry Niven
  26. Fed Up: An Insider’s Take on Why the Federal Reserve is Bad for America, Danielle DiMartino Booth
  27. Dark Matter, S. W. Ahmed
  28. After On: A Novel of Silicon Valley, Rob Reid
  29. Quantum Incident (Quantum Series Book), Douglas Phillips
  30. Quantum Void (Quantum Series Book 2), Douglas Phillips
  31. Quantum Space (Quantum Series Book 1), Douglas Phillips
  32. The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect: a novel of the singularity, Roger Williams
  33. More Money Than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite, Sebastian Mallaby
  34. Breaking out of Homeostasis: Achieve Mind-Body Mastery and Continue Evolving When Others Stagnate, Ludvig Sunstrom
  35. The Fabric of Reality: Towards a Theory of Everything (Penguin Science), David Deutsch
  36. The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide, James Fadiman
  37. TED Talks: The official TED guide to public speaking: Tips and tricks for giving unforgettable speeches and presentations, Chris Anderson
  38. Mastering the market cycle, Howard Marks
  39. Becoming, Michelle Obama
  40. Head Strong, Dave Asprey
  41. Infinite Progress, Byron Reese
  42. Smart Parenting, Mattias Ribbing
  43. Nätverka, Anna Svahn
  44. Beyond Blockchain, Erik Townsend
  45. The Doors Of Perception, Aldous Huxley
  46. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, Randall Munroe
  47. Writing without bullshit, Josh Bernoff
  48. Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
  49. Architects of Intelligence, Martin Ford
  50. I, Superorganism, Jon Turney
  51. Investeringsguiden, Anna Svahn
  52. Framgångsboken, Alexander Pärleros

I’m reading or looking forward to reading:

  1. Consider Phlebas, by Iain M. Banks
  2. Causal Angel, by Hannu Rajaniemi
  3. Danielle, by Ray Kurzweil (the free chapters were cool and unusual; I’m awaiting delivery of the physical book)
  4. Magic Medicine, by Cody Johnson
  5. Poor Charlie’s almanac (I really should get going with this one soon… perhaps I should get a physical book)
  6. How To Change Your Mind
  7. Keeping At It, by Paul Volcker
  8. Why We Sleep
  9. The Everything Bubble, by Graham Summers
  10. When Money Dies, by Adam Fergusson
  11. Skin in the game, by Taleb
  12. AI Superpowers
  13. The Master And His Emissary
  14. Mr Pikes
  15. The Outsiders
  16. After Life (Simon Funk)
  17. Chaos Monkeys
  18. Post-Human 6 (waiting for the author)
  19. Post-Human 7 (waiting for the author)
  20. Dawn of the singularity 2 (waiting for the author)
  21. The Power Of Now, by Eckhart Tolle
  22. A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle
  23. The Master and Margarita
  24. Atomic Habits, by James Clear
  25. A history of central banking and the enslavement of mankind
  26. The order of time (Carlo Rovelli)
  27. Financial shenanigans (Schilit/Perler)

A few rules for life: trust no one

Topic: Never act (blindly) on recommendations. always do the math yourself, always make sure you understand the level of certainty of the premises and facts, the solidity of the logic, and the probability of the conclusion.

Discussion: A recommendation, be it regarding an investment or a life altering decision, should only be a starting point and inspiration for your own investigation; and preferably one of several such inputs

Rule of thumb: trust no one


As an investor and portfolio manager I received as many recommendations a day I had time to listen to. They proved “right” within a reasonable time horizon about half of the time, i.e., as recommendations per se they were useless. No matter, I still got tremendous value from my analyst meetings.

I never cared about the recommendations as such; I only listened to the facts that had been painstakingly collected and documented. If anything, I made it a point to pay extra attention to the points brought forward by analysts with a different conclusion than mine. I then constructed a bigger picture of all the various data sources I had access to, some conflicting, some supporting. Not least, I gauged what the weighted average of important analysts views were.

Owing to my particular vantage point as a billion dollar hedge fund manager with access to all the largest Wall Street firms, I thus had an informed view of both all the facts, and what all other players thought were the facts and what their recommendations were. Consequently, I could slightly more reliably than most other investors take outperforming positions. Despite my privileged and advantageous position, I still had to build my own models, draw my own conclusions from a wide array of data, and not least make assessments of the relevance and reliability of the information I received.


“Try pouring a ton of steel without rigid principles”


You wouldn’t put your hand through molten metal without understanding the principles, would you? Or pouring a ton of steel without all the facts. So, why would you invest your own or clients’ money without understanding the risks, the facts and the logic involved?

Investing is hard. Anybody who claims it’s not is either stupid or selling something. If it seems to good to be true, it is, so make sure you know what the relevant facts are, and how they interact causally for the required conclusion.


Please note that this principle is valid in all aspects of life and decision making — trust no one to make your decisions for you.

Everything happens for a reason in finance

Topic: There is no God

Summary: You are responsible for everything; you are your own god

Inspiration: Everything doesn’t happen for a reason. Actually nothing does. Things just are. You, e.g., just are.

Conclusion:  in investing, you are the one throwing all the pitches at yourself. Any impossible financial curve ball coming your way was originated by you, no matter if it’s a Japanese Tsunami or a subprime meltdown. The core of the problem always lies with your own risk management.


Things affect other things, governed by mindless laws

Yes, things are connected, but not governed, not controlled or pre-ordained. I mean, if they were, by whom would that be, and more importantly why? What would be that force’s motivation and ultimate goal?

RANT BEGINS ON GOD’S LACK OF ACTIVITY

Who that is mighty enough to be worthy of the “God” title (presumably creator and governor of all matter and energy in all time and space, and everything outside the time and space we humans think we understand) would go through the trouble of spending time in the infinitesimally limited light cone that includes the fate of humans on little insignificant Earth on the outskirts of just one unremarkable galaxy out of hundreds of billions, if not trillions of galaxies in just the universe we humans can observe?

OK, if said being could circumvent the lightspeed limit, bend time and so on, maybe governing Earth might make sense. But then think about everything else to govern. Can a single “mind” do that, given the laws of the universe as we understand them? Sure, if nothing we have mapped out with the scientific method holds any water whatsoever… If we assume anything goes, then anything goes. But then again, what’s the matter of pure unscientific speculation about something we can’t measure, have never seen a single shred of evidence of, that apparently couldn’t care less about our existence, that for billions of years and billions of lightyears has been content with letting a few simple constants control everything without a single identifiable instance of interference?

RANT ENDS

OK, so nothing happens for a reason. However, you can take any situation and make the best of it, make it “yours” — as if it were meant for you.

For example, you didn’t miss the bus in order to meet that old friend. But you did miss the buss, and as a consequence you did meet that friend you otherwise wouldn’t have. It had a lot of other less tangible consequences too (all without governance or externally imposed purpose), but you get to choose which unexpected and “new” events to focus on — good or bad:

If you always focus on good outcomes and opportunities from chance; to you it’s as if everything has a purpose. In reality as we know it, however, and the one that God has never interfered with in any outside-the-system-way (laws of nature), you are the one deciding to experience purpose (and thus it’s you who create the purpose).

If you’re well prepared, skill-wise and psychologically, you can make use of unexpected and random events. But if you just think things are laid out for you with a plan in mind, you risk not making the most of them.


God – what’s the utility?

What is God? Here is one way to think about it that has been suggested to me:

Everything; as if humans were the neurons of a galactic-sized brain — we are God and God is us; just like our brain is us and we are our brains. Everything is everything, and that is God. In other words we are God, we are the decentralized hubs of the all-encompassing being that is God: We created all this from nothing, and our objective is to understand ourselves and become whole again.

Oh, baloney!

Sure, there was a big bang, everything came into being from nothing. All matter and energy stem from a single dimensionless point, where notions like space, time and matter aren’t even applicable. 14 billion years later humans appeared on Earth, and according to Einstein most of the Universe can’t reach or affect us and we can’t affect it. Even if everything has the same origin, almost nothing is causally connected anymore.

[Insert ad hoc reasoning about quantum entanglement, wormholes in space-time, the simulation hypothesis, and AI-sophons (3-body problem) here; to try to save the idea of a single, all powerful, God, that can and does take action with a purpose directed at humans who occupy one single planet of hundreds of billions in a galaxy that is one of hundreds of billions of galaxies — and that’s just in our visible universe. And then stop to see if you’re really adhering to the God you started out believing in (God is a data nerd? God is the Universe? God listens to our prayers through wormholes and entangled quantum particles?)]


Back to the one God – no equals, no parts

Let’s get back to some sort of external, system-outside God with a mind of its own, and the power to change the laws of nature.

What could such an idea be used for? Where is there room for such a super entity? In what form, energy or dimension can it exist; since our current day instruments can’t detect God?

Well, there is a huge amount of dark matter in the universe. Could that be considered “God”? It still sure doesn’t seem to do anything — not for billions of years, let alone the mere tens or hundreds of years humans would care about.

What criteria should we require for something to be considered the “God”?

  • That God started it all? That he started just this universe? Or does the God title require starting all the other universes too?
  • That God can and does work outside the laws of nature as we have mapped them?
  • Would it be enough if there were lightcone local, super powerful AIs or aliens, that don’t care to show themselves, since we are so far beneath them — either because we are boring, or they don’t want to scare us, confuse us, or disturb our evolutionary trajectory. My guess is they just wouldn’t care at all. Such beings would be busy trying to understand and control the fate of the universe.

It seems to me, the lightspeed speed limit, lightcones and all that, would make it very hard for any kind of within-laws entity to be interestingly and meaningfully powerful. Oh, and then there’s that thing again; that it at least hasn’t exercised such powers in any identifiable way for all of time.

If God is local, it’s not powerful enough to be the God, he’s just a community sheriff. If on the other hand God is all encompassing, he has no way of knowing or governing (not to mention reason to) — it would take tens of billions of years just to hear some prayers and at least as much additional time to do something about them.


What’s the meaning of all this?

I just want you to use the same type of reasoning, as I did above, in all aspects of life: relationships, work, investing, love. Is your view logically consistent? If you assume A, what does that say about B; are A and B compatible?

Try to see the whole picture; try to understand what can be known and what can’t; what matters and what doesn’t; and perhaps most important of all; what you can influence and what you can’t. If you ignore everything you can’t change and focus on the things you can, your daily life will become much more enjoyable.

When you see platitudes and clichés like “Everything happens for a reason” or “You only get challenges you can handle“, as if there were somebody orchestrating your life; call bullshit! Things just happen. And you just happened to be there.

The challenges you “get”, i.e., that happen to you, they can kill you too. They can damage you for life — irreparably. They aren’t tailor made in order to make you grow as a person.

However, that doesn’t mean you don’t owe it to yourself to rise up as best you can to all events; or to grab opportunities that come your way by chance. Just know that no supernatural being threw them at you with a purpose in mind, or fine tuned them perfectly to something they knew for sure you could handle.

In life that is. In investing it can be a bit different.


Conclusions: Investing implictions of the No God Hypothesis

Come to think of it, in particularly in investing, you are the one throwing all the pitches at yourself. Any impossible financial curve ball coming your way was originated by you, no matter if it’s a Japanese Tsunami or a subprime meltdown. The core of the problem always lies with your own risk management.

You shouldn’t give yourself tougher challenges (when it comes to investments) than you can handle. In that respect, you actually never do get challenges you can’t handle (unless you are stupid enough to wade neck-deep into cow dung by your own volition).

No, wait for the right opportunity. Size correctly. Never go all in. Do the math and take all the responsibility yourself for your actions. Adapt and improve your strategy over time, using your hits and misses wisely. Try to understand and strike preemptively at your human biases. Create systems of habits and checklists to check your emotions, and prevent easy mistakes. And most of all, stop both blaming and praising supernatural beings for what is ultimately your own doing.


God is dead! Long live God!

Please note I don’t have anything against being spiritual, mindful, and searching for context or meaning.

Believing in some kind of personal or consequential God is ill-informed and illogical, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be comforting to some.

God doesn’t hear your prayers, but you do.

In that respect you are your own God; by putting words to your thoughts, by making room for silent contemplation, for appreciation, for making plans, for preparing for future action; if done thoughtfully you are setting yourself up for reaching your goals. Football players praying to God to make them score and win against another team full of players doing the same are of course not really asking God to indulge their crass wishes. They are praying to themselves, reinforcing the idea that their training will be enough, visualizing the shot and goal. After the score they raise the index finger as if emphasizing “I am the one God, my prayer to myself was heard“.


You do the math

Just to be clear, the one single message of this post is that I am God you have to take full responsibility for your own actions, for your success, for your happiness, for your investment risk management.

In short: You. Do. The. Math (do the math, devise/revise your strategy, wait, implement it unemotionally, repeat)