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Thursday, 3 June 2021

Weekend Reading

Reading across disciplines is one of the best ways to improve our investment acumen. Here is a summary of some of the best articles I read this week. If you like this collection, consider forwarding it to someone who you think will appreciate it.

1. Neuroscience explains why social media makes us feel terrible about who we really are
Today, social media is implicated in an array of mental health problems. A report from the Royal Society for Public Health in 2017 linked social media use with depression, anxiety and addiction.

Concerns around social media have become mainstream, but researchers have yet to elucidate the specific cognitive mechanisms that explain the toll it takes on our psychological well being. New advances in computational neuroscience, however, are poised to shed light on this matter. The architecture of some social media platforms takes the form of what some scientists are now calling ‘hyperstimulators’ – problematic digital delivery systems for rewarding and potentially addictive stimuli. According to a leading new theory in neuroscience known as predictive processing, hyper stimulants can interact with specific cognitive and affective mechanisms to produce precisely the sorts of pathological outcomes we see emerging today.

2. The future look into Google from the man who runs the search
I want to be able to get to a point where you can take a picture of hiking boots and ask, “Can these be used to hike Mount Fuji?” We have to make enough sense of the physical world and the online world to be able to answer a question like that with fidelity.

I think the real competition is among the people who are going to reimagine search, in the way we just described—who will let the user be far more expressive and who will do a much better job than today. Today everybody is analyzing the world's information and making sense out of it. My goal is to make sure that we are unparalleled in the understanding of the world.

I want our maps to be built on by far the best model of the 3D world around us, that we interact with every single day. For example, we now bring AR into maps. That's an instance where the experience we provide to you is far richer than the plain old map that we had 15 years ago, which was essentially a paper map stuck on a screen. ut the rightness of that information is critical. Is it crowded there now? Is it open for takeout? During Covid, we had to make literally millions of updates to maps just on opening hours. We've done that through a variety of techniques. 

3. Noise and how to avoid it in the market
Noise is ever-present in the marketplace. It does not vanish simply by holding a company for ten years. It will be present again, and again, and again.

The noise only tends to become weaker when observed in hindsight, as narratives are born and old ones fade in a continuous, repetitive, fashion. In reality, the noise is there throughout the holding period.

If you read the headlines, then there will always be a reason not to invest in something. Even after a decision to take a stake in a company, there will always be a reason to sell. It’s almost as if headlines and media cycles are designed to capture the attention of the reader.

Conviction is born from understanding what you own. An investor’s reaction to an earnings report, an acquisition, or some other event, should first come from their own independent thought. The primary reaction to some event should come from yourself first, and then later can be tested, questioned, or shared, in an attempt to learn. If your first reaction is guided by others, then there is a lack of independent thought, and neglecting your independent thoughts could prove costly.

4. Speculation is a game you can’t easily win
Realized gains feel like penalties when they’re interpreted as missed opportunities. Walking away with a great 10x return will make you feel terrible if that came at the expense of a future 100x return. If the top turned out to be much further out than you thought, then you can’t help but to be unhappy with the gains you actually did realize (no matter how good they were). This reinforces the dynamic that what you earn is never enough.

That speculation is a game you can’t win. On one hand, there’s the burden of regret resulting from selling too early (or from selling too late at a realized loss). On the other, there’s the schadenfreude you embody by selling right on time. Whichever path the asset ends up taking, there’s a mental tax to be paid on top of any monetary result, and that’s what makes this such a difficult game to internalize.

5. Markets are crazy. Crazy is normal.
Markets don’t stay within the limits of sanity, and why they always overdose on pessimism and optimism. They have to. The only way to know we’ve exhausted all potential opportunities from markets – the only way to identify the top – is to push them past not only the point where the numbers stop making sense, but beyond the stories people believe about those numbers.

Always been the case, always will be.

One is acceptance that an insane market doesn’t mean a broken market. Crazy is normal; beyond the point of crazy is normal. Every few years there seems to be a declaration that markets don’t work anymore – that they’re all speculation or detached from fundamentals. But it’s always been that way. People haven’t lost their minds; they’re just searching for the boundaries of what other investors are willing to believe.

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