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Data Does Not Equal Fact

January 24th, 2018 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
"Data!=Fact: Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning"

Part of my frustration with all the focus on big data, statistics, quant, and numbers in general is that these are all forms of inductive reasoning.  Amidst all the hype around being more data driven, we seem to have to forgotten that inductive reasoning only provides an estimate of world.  It does not and cannot prove anything.  Evidence alone does not provide truth.  Data does not equal fact.

There are two main forms of reasoning:  inductive and deductive.  Inductive reasoning is the process of generalizing from a few observations to a general conclusion.  Deductive reasoning is the process of understanding what must be true and apply to something more specific given a premise or broader assumption.  The former is emphasizes correct observation while the latter emphasizes actual logical flow and reasoning, the how and why as opposed to just what it is you are seeing.

Inductive Reasoning...[More]
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Three Tiers of Mind

November 11th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
This is a long piece but one I've been thinking through for a long time.  I've come gradually to see people as being in one of three Tiers when it comes to their motivations, mindset, and ability to make things happen.  Before I begin, I want to make clear that this is not the case of one group of people being better than another.  There's nothing wrong with being in one Tier vs another.  You're not a better or worse person for it.  It is also not a relative scale or spectrum; the conditions for each group are explicit, discrete, and absolute, based solely on whether the person has or does not have the ability to direct not only his own fate but that of others.  There is no in between.  You either can or can't, truly think one way or don't.  Lastly, it is important to understand that these are mindsets, not people.  It is no different than discussing beliefs rather than the believers themselves, the substance of...[More]
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The Lies We Tell Ourselves

June 2nd, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     Most people struggle to see past their own actions.  The world is dark, the light at the end of the tunnel dim.  I spent my life being told to doubt my intuition, to be more modest, humble, more open-minded, less naïve, to let go of what I think I know, only to realize that what is hard to see for others is clear as day to me.  Others lie to themselves to grapple with what they don't know.  They convince themselves they are more knowledgeable than they really are and seek structure to shield themselves from the unexpected, to give themselves a false sense of control and certainty in their lives.  But my lie is to myself when I do know.  I close my eyes, purposely forget things, throw myself into the wind, whatever it takes in hopes that something might surprise me for once, to give myself a false sense of hope, the false hope that there might be more to the world than what I see before me, the mystery and excitement, the possibility of...[More]
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The Power of Fate and Irony

August 26th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     With the advent of my newest project Autodidactic I, which premises itself on harnessing the power of "fate and irony," I thought it'd be timely to explain just what that means and how it is actually more literal than one might think.  At its core, it's about setting up the least likely situations to always be in your favor, what others perceive to be your worst case scenarios to actually be your best case.  You set yourself up such that the most ironic thing that can happen to you is the best thing that could happen to you, and everything else falls in line behind that.  This is a lot of the thinking that bleeds into most of my endeavors, whether it be in my trading, planning my life, or even just making sure I get from point A to point B on time.
     It sounds a bit like superstitution or voodoo, but it really is more about risk management, psychology, and just staying ahead of the game.  When planning any sort of event or organization, for example, the biggest mistake one often makes is leaving open that 0.0001% chance that things go terribly wrong.  Instead take that and flip it on its head.  Make the 0.0001% case the case where everything goes terribly right.  In practice, I often *seem* like the more conservative risk taker on any team (despite my super left-field ideas and approaches to things),  but when the unthinkable happens, it's to my favor.  What better irony than the safest plans thriving in absolute chaos? And there's nothing to say you can't simply be so in control (or so impervious to a lack of control) that it just looks like you're passive when you've actually already set plans in motion to take over the world.  It's about always knowing your edge cases and putting them in alignment with your goals.  It's about eliminating chance from the equation and only leaving open possibilities that help your cause.  When the unthinkable happens, you win, and when it doesn't, life just continues as usual.
     The other aspect is just mental, when you declare the most absurd things with no expectation they happen, when you jinx or counter-jinx things, when people give up at the exact moment they should have doubled down, etc.  This definitely sounds much more like superstition now, but think of all the situations in the past where you or your friends jinxed things and how often these ironic situations actually came true.  Words have meaning, whether they leave a guilt chip in the back of someone's mind or make yourself doubt your best judgement (too good to be true, unwillingness to go against what you just said, etc).  The key again is to let the things you think most absurd always be in your favor but also in a psychological aspect.  If someone else is doubting something (often you), let them be on the losing side of the ironic outcome and not yourself.  If someone is about to give up but thinks something will work out right as they quit, be on the receiving side of that luck.  Sometimes, it's almost like witchcraft, where in order to ensure my success, I purposely make sure there are enough people thinking or making a claim they'll regret, where they unintentionally jinx themselves such that, in the (misleadingly) remote chance they're wrong, it leads an outcome most extremely in my favor.  Think of famous last words; often times I purposely get someone to declare verbally the opposite of what I want just to jinx him.  This extends to all other activities mental and psychological - trading, poker, etc. If someone is about to exit a trade they think they'll regret doing so, take that as a sign that trade will probably work.  If someone thinks they'll fold a good hand, let that be in your favor if it comes true.  Often times, my reputation in poker is that of a blind better with beginner's luck, when in actuality I'm letting my opponents self destruct against themselves.  It's letting people's own irrationality and biases get the better of them... at least, that's the politically correct way of putting it.
     I'll admit, a lot of times, there is actually absolutely no one around and nothing someone else thinks or says should rationally affect the outcome; yet it still plays out the same way where my outcome is just so much stronger if it's the most ironic thing that can happen.  If there's no one else around to jinx my outcome, often times I will jinx myself.  Sometimes I figure out what's the most absurd way for my plan to work out and then try *not* to pursue that direction while leaving that possibility open.  It's like the opposite of denial; you convince yourself the most ironic way to succeed cannot happen, but you intentionally turn a blind eye to it, leave that open to let fate play its part. Other times I make a smaller counter bet that can go terribly wrong, except that my actual main bet will win in a huge way (lose the battle to win the war, do something stupid to come out as the underdog even if it's just against yourself, shoot yourself in the foot to.. I don't know).  Even in trading, I sometimes purposely make an outrageous or regretful decision, so my smaller bet absolutely bombs but my larger bets work out - sell out of a few calls to cry about and regret not having later, only to come back and show your true hand of a huge position (take that, Fate!).  I literally just did this today with Tech Trader's once-in-a-blue moon SPY signal, knowing full well I'll hit my price target of $197 tomorrow by adding a little bit of regret in self-sabotaging a smaller bet (for the greater good of the bigger bet).  You know how the hero in the movie always gets punched before punching back?  It's like punching yourself first so that no one else can.  It's like finding the most embarrassing, stupid way to do something, such that you pay your dues in the spotlight, but behind the scenes at least you still win.  It's almost akin to ritualistic sacrifice if you want to go the superstitious route, throwing someone off the ship to make sure it sets sail, except you're sacrificing pieces of yourself (not literally this time, for those getting offended).  Perhaps the only non-madman explanation here is that it's your own doubt or expectations you are overcoming, though that still doesn't explain when no one's thoughts can affect the outcome - who knows.
     A lot of this probably comes from my gaming background growing up, particularly in real-time strategy games (RTS).  In that mindset, you are often managing hundreds of tasks simultaneously.  You can be building economies and directing armies while also controlling every individual soldier or villager at the most basic tasks, macro and micro.  What this forces you to do is constantly start things but "know" how they'll work out without necessarily watching it through.  It's about management and pipelining to the extreme.  It's pure deductive reasoning where everything is cause-effect, nothing is left to chance or correlation; you either think through all possible scenarios or you leave yourself open to exploit by the enemy.
     Here, the enemy is fate and irony, and the only way to defeat fate and irony is to turn it into your best friend....[More]
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Political Correctness is 1984's Newspeak

July 30th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
I just saw an article about the University of New Hampshire's "Bias-Free Language Guide" this morning.  At first, I thought it was a joke or satirical post of some sort on political correctness, as it seemed like something straight out of Orwell's 1984, but it was on the college's official site as an actual resource.  It's since been taken down, but it's hard to "unpublish" webpages now, especially if it's been up for years. I managed to save a static HTML copy here: University of New Hampshire's Bias-Free Language Guide (as of Jul.29 2015)

I often say the peak of my last 10 years was in high school, that things just went downhill through college where so many seemed to get brainwashed into robots or beaten into conformity.  I don't know if it's college itself or just society in general.  I've literally had peers tell me they made some decision x because it was "socially validated" (data driven, has reviews, whatever); I didn't even know that phrase existed before.  Other times it would be that they do x because of how they label themselves (I code because I'm an engineer) or because of some vague catch phrases that say nothing about why they *personally* made the decision (I work in x because it's "disruptive," "innovative," and "makes the world a better place.").  Recently, I just came out of a presentation where someone proclaimed, "Let me paint you a picture," and then proceeded to say, "Imagine your name is Tom." What in the world does your name being Tom look like?? It adds absolutely nothing. The presenter was just blindly throwing together phrases with no conscious attempt to paint anything, no different than a machine simply doing pattern recognition or copy-pasting metaphors. It's as if people just speak in soundbites now because that's what they're *supposed* to say without actually thinking about what they're trying to say or why they're saying it.  Nothing has meaning anymore.  Nothing has intent. It's all the more ironic then when I come across a university actually spelling out for its students explicitly how to think and talk.

One novel that immediately comes to mind is Orwell's 1984.  When I first read it in high school, most my peers and I thought it very unrelatable, but now it's pretty scary how close we're getting to some of its themes.  Here are some comparisons to illustrate the point:

Orwell's...[More]
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Hear the Pictures and Not the Words

July 4th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     "What do you see when you hear this music?" I once asked someone.
     To my surprise, he said, "Nothing."
     "Really?" I asked.  "Not even a story or anything?"
     "Nope.  I just like how it sounds.  Why? What do you see?"
     It still surprises me whenever I come across others who can be appreciating the same work before us but seeing nothing at all.  It never really occurred to me until after college that others might only hear the sound or see the word, the notes, or the colors.
     I still remember a conversation several years back where several coworkers were debating whether thought was organized based on what language one spoke.  "Of course not," I wanted to say, "Otherwise what would you be thinking as a child before you knew any language?" But the debate simply moved towards whether children had any real thoughts...[More]
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The Perfect Storm for Silicon Valley

June 19th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
"Thoughts on Exuberance in Silicon Valley"

The last few years have been pretty incredible for the San Francisco Bay Area.  You really have to have lived here as I have to see how easily capital has flowed into the area, the effects of it trickling into nearly every industry even remotely tech related.  Just two years ago, there was San Francisco being more expensive than most cities but not quite at the level of New York or other top tier cities.  Now an apartment that once rented for $2500 can command mid-$3000s or higher.  A place the size of a walk-in closet at under 200 sqft can be found at $1700 or more.  When I first graduated college in 2013, the predominant attitude I saw in my peers was still that of caution and skepticism about the job market.  Now I have peers who have literally switched full time tech jobs every 4 months, some who would buy up an armful of snacks at a convenience store only to throw it all away...[More]
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Threaded Thinking

May 25th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     One thing I've come to notice is my thinking style tends to be much different than most when it comes to planning or managing how to pursue multiple tasks.  Some have suggested I think very linearly when much of the world is moving towards nonlinear or multitasking, but I'm not exactly the person one would consider tunnel visioned or laser focused nor is it accurate to say I only do one thing at a time.  Instead, it's more like I plant the seeds of each of my tasks in a way that allows me to shift my focus to other things while each continues in the background.  If you're familiar with business terms, it's like balancing lead time, where one does the things that just need to be started but not tended to for a while so they can be returned to later.  If you're more familiar with engineering terms, it is like pipelining to have multiple things done at the same time, not by having multiple processes but by having one process...[More]
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Breaking People to Their Core

March 29th, 2015 | Posted by pftq in Essays | #
     Where do I find people like myself? That question has consumed me for as long as I can remember.  Over the past few years after college, I've managed to only come across maybe a handful of people out of the thousands I met who I can really relate to or consider like-minded.  In the eighteen years of school before that, there were maybe three, each at different times of my life.  What do I consider as being like-minded or similar to myself? For me, understanding a person is all about understanding the person's motivations - seeing through their actions, breaking them down and figuring out what really drives them deep within, what would cause them to crumble if they lost it but what would also make them truly happy.  While I have never considered this a formal skill or talent, I have gotten quite good at seeing into the motivations of those I meet.  This is a hard topic to discuss simply because it can easily be misconstrued as arrogance or...[More]
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