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CIO Perspectives

An emotionally intelligent bike ride down Wall Street

Writing papers for me is very therapeutic. It gives me a chance to share thoughts and views on the future that combine macro themes with markets and psychology. The internal debate involved in the learning process in my head before these words hit the paper is fairly intense. As these views are shaped, I question everything and look for more and more external insights before feeling my thoughts are clear enough to share. Many times, the paper changes dramatically during this process. Much of this learning process comes from the experience of growing up in a house where my father was very argumentative and cynical, thinking the best way to teach me was to never agree with me and to try to prove that in life you will hear few facts and infinite opinions. Spending many years after I left home reading books on psychology for obvious reasons, I am sure that internal debate in my head is directly related to those combative debating sessions with my father. Needless to say when you are taught 2+2=4 and the rest is up for discussion, I had a hard time enjoying the ‘sage on the stage’ routine that school offered up. Once I entered into the world of finance, and in particular derivatives, the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and solve problems with others, combined with the job of a stock market cryptographer, created an environment where learning became enjoyable and quickly an obsession. Remembering what my father taught me that most of life is art, not science, I write these papers as a Bayesian thinker knowing that these views are all probabilistic and need to evolve as new data comes into play. Once a paper is done, there are usually a lot of differing views from the readers which many times has helped set up the next journey of thought into the following paper. However, never do I remember as much feedback and back and forth as was associated with this last paper.1 What is most interesting to me is people seemed to be polarized on their views. On one side, many people who seemed to be scared of artificial intelligence (“AI”) were happy that someone was skeptical of this AI arms race. On the other side, the AI crowd forced me into the role of the public defender of the brain, which seemed to be on trial. Given these polarizing and passionate views on both sides, it inspired me to expand my thoughts on this topic.

One of these conversations that had the strongest impact on me was with a reporter I have gotten to know over the last year. The reporter has an informed, inquisitive, skeptical and present mind which generally leads to conversations that have the feel of a debate but with the interactive continuity of a great brainstorming session. It helped me connect more dots than I had before the conversation, questioning some of my beliefs and adding to my thoughts. Basically, it reignited the internal debate left over from the last paper. For what it is worth, I highly recommend searching for these types of people as they contribute greatly to our ability to build a latticework of mental models by bringing in their own experiences and acquired knowledge. True brainstorming is an incredible way of getting to higher levels on a topic but such sessions in this industry, due to the competitiveness of the people and the hierarchical corporate structures, are sometimes difficult to achieve. Books are great but finding people with whom you can engage has always helped me conceptualize the debate in my head.

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