Dogbert does Financial Planning:: applying myth or math?

Dogbert (flaw of large numbers)

Regulators want big, complex banks to hold larger buffers of capital to protect the financial system.

Big banks argue this is unnecessary because risk is diversified across their larger balance sheets.

Who is right? Natural sciences – especially epidemiology, ecology and genetics – provide clues…

 Complex systems: The FLAW of large numbers.

A “law of large numbers” is one of several theorems expressing the idea that as the number of trials of a random process increases, the percentage difference between the expected and actual values goes to zero.

If you REALLY want to get a deeper understanding of probability – and why it is wrong to assume too much from independent events (e.g. the roll of a dice) and apply that knowledge to the real world of inter-connected, non-linear systems – PLEASE check out the “Physics Envy…” presentation by Andrew Lo (link below).

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From quantum complexity to monied tossers

Probability and Measure

Probability and Measure (Photo credit: John-Morgan)

I am not expert (in anything!) but, unless I am very much mistaken, these scientists are striving for the simplicity on the other side of complexity that Einstein craved.

When confronted with a complicated system, scientists typically strive to identify underlying simplicity which is then articulated as natural laws and fundamental principles. However, complex systems often seem immune to this approach, making it difficult to extract underlying principles.

Simplicity and quantum complexity.

I particularly like the reference to “these systems have memory and are predictable to some extent; they are more complex than a coin toss”.

Which leads me, nicely, on to a recent paper by Nassim Taleb! “Why We Don’t Know What We Talk About When We Talk About Probability”

Taleb is one of the most well known and widely published, critics of the dangerously “naive” practice of applying raw mathematical probabilities [applied to individual or independent events e.g. the coin toss or spin of a roulette wheel] to the, serious and very real, world of finance and insurance*: where it is not ignorance of the subject that is the problem, so much as the blatant disregard for the medium and long term impact upon corporate profitability and social resilience.

A manifestation of the unacceptable face of “Irresponsible Capitalism”

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Insurance Industry:: super-spreaders of systemic risk

Who do you believe…not who do you want to believe? Are they or aren’t they?panic button

I am far from an expert on the subject but, from what I do know, I have a “bad feeling” about aspects of the Geneva Association perspective and UK stance (as opposed to USA) on what constitutes “systemically important”. Rather than repeat myself, I have outlined my thoughts in this article which contains links to other, related, items.

If you are interested in getting deeper into the subject, particularly if you like getting into the maths, you are going to have fun with this paper from Nov. 2011: Econometric Measures of Connectedness and Systemic Risk in the Finance and Insurance Sectors Read more of this post

Prof Andrew Lo: what’s wrong with the “traditional investment paradigm”?

I will, gladly, let Andrew Lo explain in great detail. A link to his paper follows this extract BUT I have highlighted something that, to me, is pretty fundamental…attempting to model a non-linear future based upon a past of, patently flawed, assumptions!:

The traditional investment paradigm is based on several key assumptions including rational investors, stationary probability laws, and a positive linear relationship between risk and expected return with parameters that are constant over time and which can be accurately estimated. These assumptions were plausible during the “Great Modulation” — the seven decades spanning the mid-1930s to the mid-2000s in which equity markets exhibited relatively stable risk and expected returns — but have broken down during the past decade, implying Read more of this post

Complexity – Economics – Risk: A Brave Army of Heretics

I have said before that complexity certainly isn’t a “new concept” it is just that our understanding of the subject has grown in the last 30 years…and accelerated within the last 10.

At Ontonix we are proud of the level of understanding that we have brought to the subject. Although, widespread recognition has, thus far, eluded us (more specifically, our Founder, Dr Jacek Marczyk). For Jacek and his original team it has been a journey with some recognition along the way. The fact is that, despite some significant success and some major clients, we are still in relatively early days when it comes to practical applications in the Financial Sector where, we believe (and events of the last few years confirm), there is an enormous and pressing need.

Galileo had his critics too!It is easy to challenge “conventional wisdom” based upon the facts but, as history shows us, change can be vehemently resisted when it comes up against entrenched “belief systems”…particularly when such change presents itself as a threat to those for whom power and wealth (individually and collectively) has derived from their “mastery” of the civilized world as we have come to recognise it.

This brings to mind the recent passing of “heretic”, Benoit Mandelbrot whose critique of the “efficient markets” hypothesis over 40 years ago was dismissed. Not the first clever guy to suffer for the truth!

Slowly, very slowly, the message is coming together. Thanks, in the main, to the very tools that allow me to write and distribute my own thoughts…WOW! The following extract contains a link to a very interesting presentation from Prof Andrew Lo “Physics Envy” and the following article “Back to Nature” further illustrate the convergence of  disciplines.

Andrew Lo’s reference to inter-disciplinary: Mathematics – Physics – Chemistry – Biology – Economics – History – Philosophy – Religion, as aligned to fields of knowledge in his “Spectrum of uncertainty”, indicate to me that there is something fundamental that is being overlooked. Common in each of the above as well as Sociology, Anthropology and, due to global inter-connectedness, every aspect of modern life. COMPLEXITY. After all each discipline, and I am sure there will be more that I have not even referenced, relate to differing aspects of the ecosystem within which we exist and without which we could not.

Our work at Ontonix is the gauntlet that has been thrown down in front of a host of “celebrated Academics” and the “wise men” of the Financial Sector! We are the only organisation able to offer a clear, verifiable, definition as well as a means of measuring – 100% quantitative, objective and model-free – the complexity of a dynamic system.

Despite this breakthrough we fully understand why the author of this article (which is certainly for the serious scholar) chose the title A Brave Army of Heretics and it ties-in rather well with a blog from February this year:

The case for “Complexity Analysis”: Blind faith, Greek philosophy and risk