As long-term investors, we are always trying to understand where the companies we cover are competition-wise. We have to try to understand for years, sometimes decades into the future, something that very well-educated, intelligent and experienced company executives, industry consultants, academics (and so on) can get oh-so-wrong, so often. All this from reading a NY Times’ article about the semi-conductor industry, whose products power so many of our beloved consumer gadgets that make the likes of Apple so rich, and what they could do to change the game – if anything. Very interesting read, especially when you consider the technology-induced pickle in which the New York Times itself is in!
His editorial in the WSJ.com is about the search for Liberty and how one dedicates his craft to it. Liberalism means different things in different countries, but “true liberalism”, as he states it, seems to be a lost “art”. We’ll leave you with the start of a great passage – just the start, to entice the reader to read the entire text: “This is the core insight of true liberalism: All individual freedoms are part of an inseparable whole. Political and economical liberties cannot be bifurcated. Mankind has inherited this wisdom from millennia of experience (…)”
The subject is very dear to us: Education and how technology can improve its productivity (and accountability), reduce costs, leverage social aspects and increase reach, convenience and even – dare we say it – the fun factor in education… A TED 2011 talk by former hedge-fund analyst Salman Khan almost has it all, and the technology is here now. It appears to address many – obviously not all – of our “wishlist items” for Education, not the least of it the empowerment of teachers, education managers, parents and even students themselves through data and its analysis (individually, by classroom, school, district, demographics, whatever).
We’re glad to post a recent story from new Blogroll inductee Simoleon Sense. This blog is a great source for thought-provoking, multidisciplinary everything. This post is a video interview with James Simons of Renaissance Tech, the famous “quant” fund. Mr. Simons’ talk goes about how he started his life with a passion for mathematics and how that eventually led him to investments. We’ve embedded the video and highlighted a few moments inside.
In our latest quarterly report, we discuss the notion of “economic moat” in the second part of the Sand Castles, Concrete Walls text. In it we quote from a 1998 Warren Buffett talk to Florida University MBA students that is simply a must-see. It’s a very candid talk in which Mr. Buffett discusses not only the fundamental aspects of value investing in a bit more detail than we get nowadays, but also some sector and company-specific opinions that, again, he now seems more reluctant to share outside of the Berkshire letters to shareholders. We post the 10 videos inside and the link to a transcript of the entire session. Video number 10 alone is worth watching and sharing with friends, and not just those in the financial industry: he proposes a mental exercise about the “ovarian lottery” that’s really thought-provoking.
Two articles about the same subject: even scientific “truth” has been called into question. The New Yorker piece is more eloquent and, as usual, they do a fantastic job of creating a certain tension and drama regarding even the most mundane or technical subjects. The NY Times article is a bit more technical (despite the ESP attention-grabbing headline). One doesn’t need to get too philosophical to say that “truth”, or at least the one found via the scientific method, is often in the eye of the beholder – ie., subject to the same randomness, bias, incentives, mishaps and flaws that define human nature.
Another reader suggestion! We’ve written skeptically about “checklist approaches” – in corporate governance, for instance. That said, there are situations for which checklists just work – in aviation and project management for decades – and our reader suggested a classic article about how the proven power of checklists in some fields can be transported over to many other fields. We remain skeptical about such widespread application of checklists, but the book has other provocative insights.
The New York Times recently dedicated a special Science section to the science of puzzles and problem-solving. At least one of the articles raises important questions, and in aggregate it’s a very interesting read. The (weak) analogy would be to relentlessly seek to build up your arsenal of mental models and knowledge – the point is to be better suited/ “fertile” for the associations and “click” moments. But there’s more…
“What good is Wall Street?” – asks this New Yorker article. Yes, most often the incentives in Wall Street are not aligned with “society’s goals”, whatever that means in any particular point in time. But the author then uses this “discovery” to argue that Wall Street may not add value to the economy as a whole, an argument we don’t subscribe to. Ignoring personal responsibility is a waste of valuable lessons that the crisis can teach us.
Richard Branson turned 60 on July 18th but now he’s posting a series of videos in which he answers 60 questions sent by the staff at Virgin. Nice timekiller, but since he mentioned The Elders in Part 1, we’ve linked to this very interesting and high-profile NGO. The names of the Elders themselves are HUGE, including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Aung San Suu Kyi and Jimmy Carter. The “supporters” list is also an impressive roster of foundations and NGOs. Here’s hoping the organization’s achievements can be just as impacting.