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Daily Speculations

The Web Site of Victor Niederhoffer & Laurel Kenner

Dedicated to the scientific method, free markets, deflating ballyhoo, creating value, and laughter;  a forum for us to use our meager abilities to make the world of specinvestments a better place.

Write to us at: (address is not clickable)

 

Are You a Natural Philosopher?

 

Are you interested in meals for a lifetime rather than meals for a day in your investments? Our SpecList is a forum for statistics on the table, concepts, observed interrelations, lessons to be drawn from life and pursuits of inquiry, queries, the proper books and music and food to be ingested to make life worth living, the great things happening to you. It is devoted to the idea that the the most important part of the scientific method is asking the right questions -- rich questions that if properly validated or refuted give information of a fruitful nature.

The list began with a few readers in early 2000, and has grown to about 200 members, with about 25-30 posts a day. If this appeals to you, write to us at , telling us a little about your pursuits, and perhaps we may help one another.

Victor Niederhoffer
Laurel Kenner

 

What is the SpecList?

People often ask what the SpecList is. Here are some answers from List members.

Our intellectual and active powers increase with our affection. The scholar sits down to write, and all his years of meditation do not furnish him with one good thought or happy expression; but it is necessary to write a letter to a friend, and, forthwith, troops of gentle thoughts invest themselves, on every hand, with chosen words.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson's Essays appear in the Gutenberg Library

. http://tinyurl.com/dptvs You'll not find better inspiration on the shelves of current bookstores.

From Dr. Brett Steenbarger, a founding member:

What the Speculators List is All About: A Philosophical Perspective
By Brett Steenbarger

     It is said that each person is either a Platonist or an Aristotelian.  The saying captures an important philosophical reality.  At the heart of any philosophical system is an epistemology:  an understanding of the  constituents of knowledge and how we obtain this knowledge.   Individual people possess their own epistemologies.  They determine for themselves what  is real and what is not, what to admit as evidence and what to dismiss.

    The divide between Platonists and Aristotelians is captured in the history of philosophy as an ongoing tension between rationalism and empiricism.  Rationalism, also known as idealism, asserts that knowledge  begins with inherent, a priori truths.  In Kantian philosophy, these are asserted to be innate categories.  In Euclidian geometry, they are definitional  starting points.  A shining example of rationalism is the Austrian economics of von Mises and Hayek.  Indeed, von Mises'  magnum opus, Human Action, is an attempt to derive the entire corpus of economics from several basic categorical assertions.

     Empiricism, alternatively, is inductive rather than deductive.  It maintains that truth is discovered, not uncovered.  The empiricist begins with careful observation and the categorization of regularities in nature. These lawful relationships are then explained through the use of theoretical models, which, if fruitful, suggest yet further observations and  regularities.  In the field of economics, empiricism is captured in econometrics the study of quantitative relationships among economic  variables. 

     Notice that the Platonist/Rationalists and the Aristotelian/Empiricists are aiming toward different ends.  The scientific ideal of the rationalists is mathematics:  a perfectly self-contained set of theorems, axioms, and  corollaries.  The ideal of the empiricists is a validated theory that explains laws of nature.

     So what does this have to do with speculating and the Spec List?

     Rationalism in the markets is captured by technical analysis.  The technical analyst begins with a set of first principles and then deduces understandings from these.  These principles may be chart patterns, Fibonacci  relationships, wave structures, cyclical patterns, etc.  Such principles are held as a priori truths, and all market analysis follows from them.  The key to understanding the market is seeing how current action fits into these  timeless patterns.

     Empiricism in the markets aims to discover patterns and regularities within market data.  These patterns may then be explained theoretically (as in behavioral finance, describing regularities as a function of human  processing biases) and tested for their validity.  Understanding, for the empirical market analyst, is not a given and is not necessarily timeless.  It  must be discovered and then rediscovered.

     We are accustomed to thinking of market analysis as defined by the poles of technical and fundamental analysis.  That, like the political distinction between Democrats and Republicans, is a limited construction of reality. Market analysis is more aptly described as a tension between those who work from revealed truths and those who engage in research to discover truths.

     The patron saint of the Speculation List is not Victor Niederhoffer, although he is near and dear to many of us.  The patron saint is Francis Galton.  Galton is the father of modern statistics and an exemplar of  empiricism.  He collected data on thousands of individuals to ascertain the genetic determinants of intellectual functioning.  He did not begin from  revealed truths or first principles, as would our modern-day egalitarians.  He collected data and sought to explain the patterns he observed within the data.

    The heart and soul of the Spec List is the empirical temperament.  It is a desire to discover and know.  It is a celebration of the human capacity to apprehend reality through volitional efforts.  In seeking to master the markets, we participate in the very essence of the heroic quest:  the winning of a boon while struggling against mighty forces.  Those forces are many:  the complexity of the markets, the perverse nature of our own emotions, and the savvy competition.  Arrayed against those is only the human mind and its capacity to transform data into information.

   At periodic intervals, perhaps we can ask ourselves, "Would Francis Galton approve of our postings?  Are we  truly searching and re-searching for truth?  Are we relying upon lazy opinion and first principles rather than hard statistics on the table?"

 

What is "The List"?
William Haynes, retired Air Force fighter jet pilot and space systems engineer:

It is often a window on the souls of its members.

And a window on our own souls is often opened when we read what

Others write here.

It is lessons on life.

Chess strategies.

Investment in markets, life, family, nation and the future.

It can be and often is profound and superficial; deep and shallow and always enlightening, even when a writer may not be.

It sends out tendrils seeking answers and finds them, coiled about ideas we would never have found alone.

The List lives and throbs with the insights, prejudices, wants and experiences of the members.

There is a selection process at work here, as some find an intellectual home ... others move in for a while and then move on.

Those who remain don't always agree and contention boils up, simmers and fades, sometimes leaving a residue of hostility but never, never boredom.

The List is ephemeral.

Although there are rumors that somewhere everything ever posted on the Web is archived, the sheer quantity of material generated makes that less than credible.

So our moving fingers write, and having writ move on, leaving little more than fading memories, but building new ideas and broadening the thinking of we who read, and answer, and ponder, blending what is read into a tapestry that, but for the List would never have been woven.

Surely we, the weavers are much the better for it, and must acknowledge the debt each of us owes to each other, and to the two who first spread the warp and the woof.

Thank you Victor; thank you Laurel. Bill

 

Note concerning the Old Speculators' Association: Our creation of this semi-mythical group was inspired by Gordon MacQuarrie's Stories of the Old Duck Hunters, particularly the doings and sayings of the Old Duck Hunters' Association president, the mythical embodiment of all the duck hunters who ever lived. Our president is the Tennessee philosopher Jack Tierney. Chairman is Dick Sears.