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Russel Napier's Anatomy of the Bear
Back cover, quoting Marc Faber, "I am constantly asked about the best investment opportunities. The acquisition of knowledge and a broad understanding of historical price trends may be one of the best personal investments one can make at this time."

(Page 6)
While any historian is liable to hindsight bias, a focus on contemporary comments and reactions at least reduces the risks of projecting one's own order on things. As a historical source, newspapers offer an efficient daily collation of events...

(Duncan Watts, Six Degrees: the Science of a Connected Age, 2003, page 240, on the distinctions between social and biologic contagion)
The more people whose actions or opinions you take into account before making a decision, the less influence any one of them will have over you. So when everyone is paying attention to many others, no single innovator, acting alone, can activate any one of them.

(Watts, 2003, page 242-243)
Most innovations that occur in networks near the upper boundary (high average number of neighbors; low threshold resistance/high appeal) die out before spreading very far at all, suppressed by the local stability of individual nodes. This state of affairs can continue almost indefinitely, leading an observer to conclude that the system is, in fact, stable [or history over, or physics completed, or innovation halted). And then, out of the blue, a single influence that initially seems no different from any other can overwhelm the netire network. There needn't be anything auspicious about the particular innovator who triggers such a cascade either. ... When cascade propagation is dominated more by local stability than connectivity, being simply well connected is less important than being connected to individuals who can be influenced easily [lax way of saying, individuals with low thresholds].

These features of the cascade window suggest some unexpected lessons for the diffusion of innovations, perhaps the most surprising of which is that a successful cascade has far less to o with the actual characteristics of the innovation, or even the innovator, than we tend to think. ...

All this is not to say that factors like quality, price, and presentation are unimportant. By altering the adoption thresholds of indivudal in the population, the innate properties of an innovation cas still affect its success or failure. The point is that because thresholds do not alone determine the outcome, quality, price, and presentation can't either. ... In other words, the structure of the network can have as great an influence on the success or failure of an innovation as the inherent appeal of the innovation itself.

(Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor, 4th ed., 1973)
In forty-four years of Wall Street experience and study I have never seen dependable calculations made about common-stock values, or related investment policies, that went beyond simple arithmetic or the most elementary algebra. Whenever calculus is brought in, or higher algebra, you could take it as a warning signal that the operator was trying to substitute theory for experience, and usually also to give to speculation the deceptive guise of investment.

Some read history books to understand how events transpire. They will obtain only deadly illusions. Others read history books to understand the writer's thinking. These will obtain some bit of timeless wisdom.

 Tom Sokol says, "GOLD doesnt go bankrupt. Actually banks dont go bankrupt either---prohibited from, in the US"

Who was it that said, was Napoleon a military genius, or did he just happen to win a lot? This is a more interesting to me than counterfactual history because to me, the answer to a "what if" question would need to specify how the alternate outcome being considered came to pass through a chain of events going back to a truly random outcome.

(By way of example, Wikipedia asks the counterfactual, what if Hitler had died in the 1944 assasination attempt? To me, the answer would be incomplete without a detailed description of how the assasination had come to pass, and therefore how the evolution of the universe up to that point would have to be restructured to have brought it about. This description may have to go out to some purely random outcome; the limiting case being point-mutation in someone's genetics during conception, and barring that, thermal noise causing the solar system to form differently...)

On short-termism
Maybe the willingness to accept short-term goodies without regard to long-term negative consequences comes from a lack of understanding of probability and stochastic processes. 

In good times, the future is very much better for very little invested, and this makes people assume that very few of their short-term desires need be weighed against long-term consequences.

Then, this attitude, which may have been a reason for good times to depart, remains in place as the bad times come. With any understanding of randomness, people would know that unwillingness to forego short-term gains for long-terms benefits is dangerous and wouldn't do it.

Mish states, '"I made a mistake" is so boring compared to discussions of who and how and just what is behind the PPT attempting to rally stocks and suppress the price of gold and silver.' Equally boring is "I didn't have a clue," which is what I ought to say.

On the impossible?
A commentator on Bessler notes, "Until 1908, scientists routinely used the laws of physics to rule out the possibility that man would ever fly. Five years after their first successful flight, and in spite of many public demonstrations, the Wright Brothers' invention was still being ridiculed as a hoax in the press and scientific community. It was not until President Theodore Roosevelt ordered public trials that the Wrights were finally vindicated."

Similarly, Cohen reflects on Roger Bannister, the first to run a mile in less than 4 minutes in his A Class with Drucker, and recalls that before the event, a docter of kinesiology "stated that the human body just wasn't built to run this fast and that it couldn't be done. He predicted that Bannister would never succeed."

Arthur C. Clarke also has said, when a respectable scientist says something is impossible or will not be achieved for millions of years, it will probably occur in his own lifetime.

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