Adam Kucharski is an assistant professor in the Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. His research uses mathematical and statistical models to understand disease outbreaks. In 2014, he was recruited to analyze the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Adam earned his PhD in applied maths at the University of Cambridge.
1. What is it about gambling that seems to attract world-class mathematicians throughout history?
2. What mathematical techniques have been best applied successfully to gambling?
3. What was the genesis and evolution of Monte Carlo simulation? What are its shortcoming?
4. Why is poker such a good challenge for artificial intelligence?
5. In free chess, computers-plus-human hybrids are still currently getting the best of computer-only opponents. What are the implications for other domains like gambling and investing?
Julius Bailey is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wittenberg University. He is a philosopher, cultural critic, social theorist, and diversity lecturer. Julius is the founder of Project Eight, a youth service organization that focuses on leadership and civic participation. He holds Masters Degrees from Howard (Philosophy) and Harvard Universities (Af Am Studies) and a Doctorate from University of Illinois (Philosophy and Education).
1. How would you define “hip-hop”? A lot of people confuse it with rap music, but it’s really so much more culturally, right?
2. How did gangsta rap impact hip-hop?
3. Warren Buffett has often espoused following your own personal inner-scorecard. How does that tie in with hip-hop and authenticity?
4. There appears to be a zero-sum-game mentality with many MCs where they build their reputation through bragging about their own success and dissing or diminishing others. I know my personal favorite artists have been the ones who are more vulnerable and less about describing money, cars, alcohol, and women. How have rapper’s philosophic outlooks evolved over time?
5. Who’s on your Hip-Hop Mount Rushmore?
John Burke serves as the President of Trek Bicycle Corporation. John joined Trek Bicycle Corporation, which his father founded in 1984, and has been its CEO since 1997. He served as chairman of President George W. Bush's President's Council on Physical Fitness & Sports. John is an avid cyclist who has finished Ironman Wisconsin twice as well as completing the Boston and New York Marathons.
1. You describe yourself as independent, and it’s clear you don’t care which side of the aisle an idea comes from if it makes sense to you. How do we break the stranglehold the two parties seem to have right now?
2. If you could make only three specific changes, what would they be? What are the prime movers we might focus on to make the biggest differences?
3. It seems like one party wants to “do more with more” and one leans toward “do less with less.” With technology constantly increasing human capabilities, how come no one is saying “let’s do more with less”? Is a low-performance government just a given?
4. Is Social Security truly fixable? Or will we just default slowly through printing and watering down our fixed liabilities?
5. What can we do to fix a tax code that so clearly plays favorites and is overly complicated?
Benjamin Bergen is a professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego. He teaches and does research on language and the brain. Ben’s the author of two books; Louder than Words, which proposes a new theory of how people understand the meanings of words, and What The F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves. He earned a PhD in Linguistics from UC Berkeley.
1. Is there truth to the myth that swear words come from a different part of our brains? What’s aphasia?
2. How do swear words operate with their own grammar? It seems like fuck is a Swiss Army Knife of words.
3. There appears to be a Gresham’s Law to swear words where once a word takes on a taboo meaning, it drives out all of it’s non-profane meanings. How do swear words evolve?
4. What’s the story behind Samoan children’s first word?
5. Is the internet leading to a homogenization of swearing? It seems like new swear words could bubble up more readily through the use of hashtags, but are we also losing some local color in the process?
In this week's Five Good Questions, we're interviewing Sundeep Bajikar about his book Equity Research for the Technology Investor.
Sundeep Bajikar is a portfolio manager of the Acteve Model Portfolio, which is based on a value investing philosophy and process described in his book Equity Research for the Technology Investor. Previously, Sundeep was a Wall Street analyst for 9 years at Morgan Stanley & Jefferies. He spent the 9 years before that in the technology industry at Intel. He holds an MBA in Finance from Wharton, and M.S. degrees in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota.
Five Good Questions:
1. If you’re a generalist investor, do you have any business venturing into technology investments? Or are you setting yourself up for failure by venturing outside your circle of competence? Or is it that exact mindset that creates the opportunities?
2. What are your views on discussing investments with others? It seems like a difficult balance of gaining valuable insight vs. tainting your own views?
3. There are so much data out there. What do you focus on? What’s your key message to individual investors?
4. Most historical “technology” investments (airplanes, cars, radios, internet) have shown a few big winners, but mostly a lot of zeroes for shareholders. It seems all the value flows through to the consumer. How do you avoid that as an investor?
5. With such a wide range of outcomes in tech, how do you handicap the odds and magnitudes of different outcomes to get a ballpark of a probabilistic future?
In this week's Five Good Questions, we're interviewing Malcolm Balk about his book The Art of Running.
Malcolm Balk is a runner, coach, Alexander Technique teacher, cellist, and father of two based in Montreal, Quebec. Malcolm trains colleagues from the Alexander world to teach The Art of Running which is based on his book of the same title and which aims to help runners improve their performance and enjoyment.
Five Good Questions:
1. Who was Alexander, what was his technique, and how does it relate to running?
2. What is S.M.A.R.T. running?
3. In our achievement-driven society, emphasis is placed results over process. Your book argues putting process over results, which happens to fit with how some of the best investment thinkers view the world. Why do you put process over results?
4. What’s the mantra/checklist I should be telling myself while I’m running to maintain good form?
5. What’s the connection between running and deep thinking exercises, like reading?
In this week's Five Good Questions, we're interviewing Jeremy Miller about his book Warren Buffett's Ground Rules.
Jeremy Miller is a research analyst at a large New York-based asset manager.
Five Good Questions:
1. Having thoroughly read the partnership letters and presumably followed Buffett closely after that period, what percent of Buffett’s current wisdom would you guess he had by 1970 when he closed the partnerships?
2. Who was Harry Bottle, and why was he so critical to the decentralized model of what Berkshire has become?
3. Everyone remembers American Express as a formative investment for Buffett because he moved from purely quantitative to more qualitative, but a strong argument could be made that his Dempster investment was also highly formative. What did he learn from that experience?
4. Buffett has famously said that he believes he could still do 50% per year on a small portfolio. Do you agree or disagree with his claim?
5. What’s the difference between conservative and conventional?
In this week's Five Good Questions, we're interviewing Jeff Gramm about his book Dear Chairman.
Jeff manages a hedge fund and teaches value investing at Columbia Business School. His recently published book, Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism, has been praised as "a terrific read" by Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times, "a revelation" by the Financial Times, "a grand story" by The Wall Street Journal, and “an engaging and informative book” by The New Yorker.
1. I’ve heard you previously interviewed and have been impressed with your thoughts around governance and board dynamics. How can boards help management make better strategic decisions, especially with respect to capital allocation?
2. I’ve heard Munger say you could teach an entire MBA just from studying GM. Could you walk us through some of your insights, specifically during the period of Ross Perot’s involvement?
3. Of all of the stories, which one was your favorite to research?
4. We all see these major headlines of activists battling with management, but what percent of the work would you guess is being done behind the scenes?
5. The arc of activism seems to have gone from Graham’s “would you mind releasing some of these pent up assets, please?” to Icahn’s 1980s hostile takeovers to Loeb’s poison pen and quite personal attacks. Maybe it’s softening a little from there? Where do you see the future of activism going from here?
Wrapping up Season 2 of Five Good Questions.
We hope you enjoyed Season 2 of Five Good Questions. I'm still in awe at the intellectual generosity of these amazing authors!
It's time for me to hit the road for shareholder meeting season. If you'll be in Toronto for Fairfax or in Omaha for Berkshire, shoot me an email or come up and say hi. I'd love to meet you and chat.
I'll also be traveling to China for a few weeks of exploring with my wife. We're evening doing a marathon on the Great Wall-- wish me luck!
I've already got a massive stack of books cued up for next season, and I may or may not be working on my own book. More details to follow...
Thank you again for supporting 5GQ's mission of creating more inspired readers.
Jason Zweig is an investing columnist at The Wall Street Journal and editor of Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor. He's also author of Your Money and Your Brain (2007), on the neuroscience and psychology of financial decision-making, and The Devil’s Financial Dictionary (2015), a satirical glossary of Wall Street jargon.
1. The entire book was written with tongue in cheek and there are some hilarious definitions. What inspired you to write a book of this nature?
2. I enjoyed the entry on the term “panic” and how it related in multiple ways to the Greek god Pan. Can you explain the multiple parallels that exist?
3. I like to imagine two intersecting continuums for intelligent investing. On one of them is a “be the casino” approach most like Joel Greenblatt vs. a highly concentrated, individual company research like how Charlie Munger ran his fund. On the second continuum you have an all-weather, always-invested-and-rebalancing approach most like Ray Dalio vs. a fear-and-greed, holding-cash-for-opportunities-approach of Seth Klarman. In which quadrant would you find yourself drawn to or at least want your money managed?
[Be the casino] ← → [Concentration]
4. I found it surprising to be reminded how much of the terminology of Wall Street is derived from gambling parlance. “Making a bet,” “blue chip,” etc. Do you believe that the markets are like large casinos or do they actually serve to allocate resources to worthy enterprises?
5. What is the one quality people should work hardest to cultivate in order to succeed as investors?
Edward Chancellor is a financial historian, journalist and investment strategist. In 2008, he joined GMO’s asset allocation team. He graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge with first class honours in Modern History, and from St Antony's College, Oxford with a Masters of Philosophy in Modern History. He is a former deputy US editor for Breakingviews.com, and worked for Lazard Brothers in the early 1990s. Edward is the author of Capital Account, Devil Take the Hindmost, and Capital Returns.
Steve Kamb is the founder of NerdFitness.com, a worldwide fitness community dedicated to helping nerds, desk jockeys, and self-aware robots level up their lives. He's also the author of the book, Level Up Your Life, that gives people a blueprint for prioritizing adventure, growth, and happiness by turning life into a giant video game.
Meb Faber is a co-founder and the Chief Investment Officer of Cambria Investment Management. Faber is the manager of Cambria’s ETFs, separate accounts and private investment funds. Mr. Faber has authored numerous white papers and several books: Global Asset Allocation, Shareholder Yield, The Ivy Portfolio, Global Value, and Invest with the House. He is a frequent speaker and writer on investment strategies and has been featured in Barron’s, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. Mr. Faber graduated from the University of Virginia with a double major in Engineering Science and Biology.
Bogumil K. Baranowski is a New York City-based value investor, author, and investment professional with over a decade of experience. He works at Tocqueville Asset Management, where he is the founder and portfolio manager of a private investment fund. He was born in Poland, educated in Paris and Brussels. He enjoys making a difference in people's lives through writing and teaching. He is the author of Outsmarting the Crowd: A Value Investor's Guide to Starting, Building, and Keeping a Family Fortune.
Gene Hoots is the chairman of CornerCap Investment Counsel, an advisory firm that he co-founded in 1989. He has worked in finance and investments for over fifty years. His career in the corporate world included 21 years with R. J. Reynolds Industries where he spent a decade managing that company’s $4 billion employee benefit and savings plan investments.
Adam Levin is a consumer advocate with more than 30 years’ experience in personal finance, privacy, real estate and government service. A former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Levin is Chairman and founder of Identity Theft 911, Chairman and co-founder of Credit.com and serves as a spokesperson for both companies. An expert on personal finance, credit, identity management, fraud and privacy, he writes a weekly column which appears on Huffington Post and ABCNews.com. He is a frequent guest on television, and has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business News, Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, CBS Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight and scores of radio stations throughout the country. He lives in New York City with his wife and son.
Chris Mayer is the Investment Director of Bonner & Partners, a financial research firm. He is the author of Invest Like A Dealmaker: Secrets from a former banking insider, World Right Side Up: Investing Across Six Continents and, most recently, 100 Baggers: Stocks that Return 100-to-1 and How to Find Them.
Five Good Questions:
Tadas Viskanta is the Founder and Editor of Abnormal Returns. Tadas is a private investor with over 25 years of experience in the financial markets. He is the co-author of over a dozen investment-related papers that have appeared in publications like the Financial Analysts Journal, Journal of Portfolio Management among others. Tadas is also the author of the well-received book: Abnormal Returns: Winning Strategies from the Frontlines of the Investment Blogosphere that culls lessons learned from his time blogging.
Five Good Questions:
Robert P. Murphy is Research Assistant Professor with the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University. In addition to The Primal Prescription, Murphy is the author of several economics books for the layperson, including Choice (Independent Institute 2015), The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism (Regnery 2007), and the textbook Lessons for the Young Economist (Mises Institute 2010). He blogs at ConsultingByRPM.com.
David is the Betty R. Miller Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and department chair at Cornell. He specializes in organometallic chemistry with a particular expertise in the organic chemistry of lithium. David is an avid student of markets, economics, and geopolitics and writes a Year in Review posted at Peak Prosperity and Zerohedge. Dave has been cited in the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian and has appeared on Russia Today.
Victor Ricciardi is an Assistant Professor of Financial Management at Goucher College. Professor Ricciardi is a leading expert on the academic literature and emerging research issues in behavioral finance. He is the editor of several eJournals distributed by the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) at www.ssrn.com, including behavioral finance, financial history, behavioral economics, and behavioral accounting.
1. What’s the bias with the biggest impact that’s the least understood or noticed?
2. Wisdom of the crowd usually exists only when there’s a diverse population. Given the typical investor is pretty homogenous (white, affluent), should we expect the wisdom of the crowd to not apply to the stock market? What about changing demographics with whites becoming a minority and women now earning more bachelor’s degrees than men?
3. Financial literacy scores in the US are pretty dismal, which to me really calls into question the validity of the Efficient Market Hypothesis. How can we improve financial literacy?
4. Investors nearing or reaching retirement are often those searching for yield. In a low interest rate environment like today, that yield is often unavailable without considerable risk attached. Do you think there’s a lot of unknown risk being assumed right now by people who can least afford to take it?
5. Conventional academic wisdom has it that the price of a security going down means there’s greater risk (due to a higher beta), and that risk and return are positively correlated. Value investors believe that a lower price, all things equal, actually represents less risk while offering a greater potential reward. What are your thoughts on the subject?
Gareth Jones is a Fellow of the Centre for Management Development at London Business School and a visiting professor at Spain’s IE Business School in Madrid. Rob Goffee is Emeritus Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School, where he teaches in the world-renowned Senior Executive Programme. Goffee and Jones consult to the boards of several global companies and are coauthors of Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? and Clever, both published by Harvard Business Review Press.
Arthur T. Benjamin is a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College who specializes in combinatorics. He is known for mental math capabilities and "Mathemagics" performances in front of live audiences. His mathematical abilities have been highlighted in newspaper and magazine articles, at TED Talks and on The Colbert Report. He is the author of several books, including The Magic of Math: Solving for x and Figuring out Why.