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Perthblog

This is the official Perth blog site for posts, comments, and other contributions about leadership, behavioral finance and economics, and about management generally, as well as other related topics that take our fancy.

Do trees have brains?


I’m sure you noticed (or maybe not) a little news item that deforestation in Brazil increased 30% in the last 12 months ? So what? Does anyone care? Why should we anyway? There’s inconsequential reasons like forests create rain (through the action of emitting terpenes , inter alia) and stabilize terra firma. I have a more selfish reason; when you’r...
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Social Science is the study of entangled brains: Discuss.


So here’s a turn-up for the books. It turns out that you don’t just get entanglement between individual photons. You can get entanglement between millions of photons simultaneously, all of them within a single object (although not necessarily so). Sounds like cods-wollop right? What am I, or the scientists who figured this out, smoking here? If you...
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Are birds aesthetes?


Yep, it’s true. Some species of birds can actually distinguish between Monet, Picasso and other painters. They can even distinguish between art styles painted by unknowns. Can your dog do that? Maybe that performance beats 90% or more of humans given the same task? So if you want to get the skinny, and confirm that I didn’t make it up check out “ T...
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Maybe Alzheimer’s isn’t a Brain Disease?


So I guess you saw that latest failure of an Alzheimer’s drug ( verubecestat from Merck )? Scratch yet another Phase III Alzheimer’s drug hopeful. Of 244 drugs tried out for Alzheimer’s between 2002 and 2012 , only one was approved and it is of tiny effectiveness anyway. It’s got a 99.6% failure rate in this area. As you probably know, the reigning...
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Quantum economics – can 2 (or more) minds be entangled?


I just read “ The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis . You remember him? The author of Moneyball , the best-selling book about a new way to win at baseball. “The Undoing Project: is about the emergence of behavioral economics and behavioral finance. It focuses on the two key figures in the drama, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman and the incredibly f...
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Does noise cause global dysfunction in human mood?


Music streaming is hot. Everyone’s doing it. So why is it so popular? Well, the music is popular and varied, often relaxing. You can live in your own world. What’s not to like? Outside there’s a lot of hurly-burly and especially a lot of noise. Is music streaming a way to get away from the noise? We are all bathed in a constant tumult of noise, unc...
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Can the cognitive biases of the intelligence agencies be exploited by our enemies?


National intelligence has been a hot topic lately. That’s a bit weird given that I have been posting on artificial intelligence . Does national intelligence come even close to AI? Can we trust its analyses? OK so I have a tiny bit of first-hand experience in this. In my callow youth I was actually a junior diplomat for a small power allied to the U...
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AI is heading in a wrong and terrible direction!


My recent post on AI argued that currently AI is not interesting because it’s really just more incremental thinking based on current, boring,  paradigms, in effect party tricks (“AI – Let’s move beyond party tricks!” ). Yep, I’ve seen the latest celebratory article in the new York Times about the amazing things they’re doing with Google Transl...
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AI – Let’s move beyond party tricks!


Right now AI is really hot. But to me it’s boring, showing no imagination. Siri still performs at the level of a very dumb 5 year old. Self-driving autos work but the tech is soooo incremental. Basically AI is all about performing party tricks. When will it get truly smart, even shocking? I am sure you have heard of the famous American science fict...
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Robo-Etiquette by Emily Roast


  Have you noticed the recent explosion of robots? There are robo-soldiers , robo-advisers , robo-vacuums and so on. To my great shame I’ve even added to the clutter ( Robo-coaches ), so I’m part of the problem too. We have a rapidly-emerging existential crisis, namely how to communicate with these robos. I mean no-one teaches you at school or...
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Can we unify traditional and behavioral economics?


So active investing is dead. Even the investment literati have finally figured that one out even though the writing has been on the wall for quite some time. I’ve been heralding the issue (“ An Inconvenient Truth - Alpha Financial Styles Beget Ginormous Returns ” and “ Less Algebra More Fudge Brownie - What Will Managed Investing 2.0 Look Like ?”)....
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Head transplants – body optional?


So you haven’t heard of head transplants? Get with the times, dude! Believe it or not an Italian medical research team is planning to do a head transplant in 2017 . And yep, they even have a volunteer. Takes all types. There’s considerable skepticism however that the operation can go ahead let alone succeed. Most mainstream surgeons think it’s impo...
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“Happy Feet” - can animals fall in love?


OK so I went whale-watching recently, my token conversion to greenery. I actually saw several whales! Humpbacks actually. The interesting thing is that all the ones I saw were in pairs. Our helpful guide told us that these were always couples, male/female. But, she added disapprovingly, the male escort was always temporary; they have their way with...
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Could you purposely redesign your personality with a pill?


Another apparently useless piece of information, courtesy of researchers at the University of Virginia and the University of Massachusetts medical School. It looks like particular chemicals in your immune system cause you to be social . Specifically it’s a molecule called gamma interferon. Who would have thunk it? For some reason, the immune system...
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Should we deliberately slow down innovation?


Did you notice that Alvin Toffler, author of “Future Shock ” just passed away? His book was published in 1970. That was well before the Internet, Twitter, Facebook and even photocopiers and hand-held electronic calculators. Think what he would say today? Clearly the pace of change has accelerated dramatically since Toffler alerted us to the problem...
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Are recessions contagious?


We're in one of the longest economic expansions in history right now. So of course the forecasters are jumping off the bandwagon to predict the next recession. The only thing though: economists are tragically unsuccessful at predicting recessions. According to the IMF, in the 1990s private economists only predicted correctly 2 of 60 recessions one ...
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Behavioral M&A – Yahoo Needed It But Too Late Now


So what’s behavioral M&A anyhows? See here for the skinny , will tell you more below. When Marissa Mayer was appointed CEO I predicted she would fail. Right on the money (“ Yahoo – Product Bling 1, Business Acumen 0 ”). Was the problem Ms. Mayer or something else? How about the 70 or so acquisitions she made? They cost around $4 billion; it’s n...
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Behavioral Economics & Finance Need a Killer App (ahem)


So if you look at my LinkedIn profile you’ll see that I am billed (inter alia) as a thought leader in behavioral finance. So why would I be casting aspersions on my chosen field? A while back I was discussing behavioral economics and finance with a very senior executive (British btw) for strategy and innovation in a well-known and respected global ...
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Can we create irrational AI?


Did you notice that an AI program from Google just beat a top human player at Go ? It’s a big deal; the chess problem was solved years ago but Go was still a challenge. So now that problem has fallen, AI has got to go to the next step. What will that be I wonder? The problem is getting more difficult as we come to understand that humans aren’t the ...
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Are women smarter than men – but only after babies?


So while Trump disses women, the women are nonetheless showing their mettle a la Hilary and Fox's Megyn Kelley. That brings me (well, kind of) to an article I read recently in New Scientist “Busting the baby brain myth: Why motherhood makes minds sharper ”. The author (a woman btw) is out to debunk what she sees as being the myth of the “baby brain...
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