Sunday, October 25, 2009

the new Soviet man

While we're kicking the remains of Superfreakonomics around the car park, here's something else. Via Kevin Drum, it seems that John Meriwether, the chap whose hedge fund LTCM nearly killed the banking sector in 1998, has started another hedge fund, a few months after his come-back ended up being crushed under the financial panic of 2008.

As a comment at RealClimate says with regard to Dubner and Levitt:
So, do Levitt and Dubner list Dunning and Kruger as co-authors on this chapter?
I think you'll agree this comment wins the Internet. Meriwether seems to be the ideal type of a certain kind of intellectual failure mode, almost an American original - the man obsessed by the notion that his (almost always) numerical expertise makes him an all-round expert.

Nathan Myrhold is another - he even called his post-Microsoft hobby company "Intellectual Ventures", which ought to put a rough value on the degree of wankishness we're dealing with here. But, of course, they aren't intellectuals or even technocrats; they specialise in hyper-specialisation, rather than any broader culture, and by the time they reach this point they are usually many years from dealing with anything practical.

In fact, as a cultural type, they're almost Soviet figures; believers that if you can get that input-output table\Gaussian copula just right, we'll be able to achieve the new man and true communism\hedge the entire economy perfectly.


Jon H said...

And it's not like Myrvhold had any particularly outstanding achievements at Microsoft. He started Microsoft Research, but it's almost indistinguishable from a plot to simply hire and warehouse top CS researchers to keep them away from other companies.

Really not someone I'd want in charge of saving the planet.

John B said...

Meriwether's a salesman, not an anything expert - he's got a BA in business studies (which, in 1969, implies an even less academic career track than it would today) and an MBA.

The fact that his funds went bust is pretty much irrelevant - his job is to convince people to invest in them (so he uses Clever Maths Guys where he reckons it'll help attract investors, which was the whole point of LTCM), and that's also how most of his pay is determined.

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