Tag Archives: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought

Adaptive Markets – Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought – by Andrew W. Lo – A Book Review by Bill Dahl

For a scholar who writes of his early life: “In second grade, my mother received a note from my teacher informing her that I might be “retarded”—the term of art in those days—and could use some extra help.” P. 125 — Welcome to a marvelous book by Andrew W. Lo.


 

Andrew W. l.o is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering. He is the author of Hedge Funds and the coauthor of A Non-Random Walk Down Wall Street and The Econometrics of Financial Markets (all Princeton University Press). He is also the founder of AlphaSimplex Group, a quantitative investment management company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What’s great about this book are several things:

  1. You do NOT have to be a graduate student at MIT to enjoy this book. If you enjoy cutting edge multi-disciplinary insights into human behavior, this book is for you.
  2. This book requires unlearning – for me, authors that do this are rare and invaluable.
  3. This book FINALLY begins the arduous process of integrating the science from a multitude of fields into a coherent thesis: :”A new explanation for the contradictions and paradoxes discovered in the battle between the rationalists and the behavioralists. I call this new explanation the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis.”  P. 185.
  4. The author is a superb story teller with no intellectual ax to grind.  His wonderful heart comes through in the way he writes…it just makes the reading experience vastly more enjoyable. Thank you.The nature of our understanding of economics, finance and human behavior is changing (as it must). As one who enjoys writing and research in this genre, I find, as the author states; “But every time I finished one book, I felt impelled to read another because of gaps or inconsistencies in what I’d just read.” P. 302 Adaptive Markets put an end to this experience for me (although I WILL continue reading!!!).

That’s why Adaptive Markets – Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought – by Andrew W. Lo  is so darn important. The work is very much an integration of the most compelling scientific findings from a myriad of fields that Lo sutures together in a straightforward and coherent manner. It is also a body of work that will undoubtedly inspire additional research.

Evolutionary biology represents an organizing framework for Lo’s reasoning. I found the framework very illuminating. A few quotes from the book:

“The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis tells us that profit-taking alone isn’t enough to explain market success in organizing human behavior. We’re motivated by fear and greed, but also by a sense of fairness, and perhaps most important, by our imaginations.” P. 417

Just as the human eye is susceptible to optical illusions, the human brain is susceptible to illusions about risk and probability.” P. 62

“Economic rationality isn’t wrong; it’s just incomplete.” P. 200

Financial evolution proceeds at the speed thought, where several generations of ideas can come and go within the time span of a productive working lunch.” P. 231

A financial crisis can be as disruptive to people’s lives as a major war.” P. 320

“This means that culture is also subject to evolution, to the same processes of variation, selection, and replication as a biological species or a mental narrative”. P. 345

There are important interactions between culture and environment, in some cases reinforcing bad behavior.” P. 352.

This is a terribly important work. I hope it will inspire the essential, civil dialog and research endeavors that are currently woefully underfunded to explore the emerging, new frontiers in finance – and our understanding of all the audiences in these environments.

I HIGHLY recommend this superb work.


 

ENJOY!