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We Are Fred Phelps

March 22nd, 2014
We Are Fred Phelps

We Are Fred Phelps

I would like to take a pause from the normal financial news and information of this site and, because it is really my only vehicle for this type of writing, talk about another topic — Fred Phelps. Phelps, the odious leader of the uber-odious Westboro Baptist Church, died this week. He and the Westboro Baptist Church made headlines for their “God Hates Fags” signs and protests at soldiers’ funerals.

Phelps wasn’t a polarizing figure. He was a unifying figure. Liberal or conservative, we could all hate Phelps. He was an equal opportunity hater and hated us all right back.

But, might there not be a little — about half — of Phelps in all of us? That’s my question — do we come off as Fred Phelps? Check out social networks, or watch the news and you will see and hear how ideology has split us into two ideological camps. We create templates for our hate. The same cruel jokes that liberals heaped onto George W. Bush and conservatives a decade or so ago match up pretty well with the anti-Obama, anti-liberal crowd today. We post our meme updates on Facebook and we call each other Rupugnican and libtards. All of which plays well to our peer groups. Liberals preach to the liberal choir, conservatives to theirs, just like Phelps came off to his choir.

To each other, though, we start to look like a more targeted version of Phelps, but with just a bit less self-awareness.

And there are a lot of reasons to keep this going. By losing ourselves in our ideologies, we place ourselves in demographics, which makes it easier for news organizations, publishers, and entertainers to spoon feed our hate and fears. Follow the money, reporters always say, and there’s a lot of money to be made in this.

We may make some friends with our re-spewing of the hate industry that most of us call politics, but we’re going to lose some, too — maybe even some good friends. We won’t make much headway and converting people to our ideas — because it’s really about preserving our self-interest, not at finding solutions that everyone can live with.

But, ultimately, we’re losing ourselves. We’re becoming soulless caricatures. When we cling to our ideology, at the expense of our humanity, we are Fred Phelps.

Online Investing AI

Crowdsourcing The Personal Hedge Fund

February 2nd, 2014
BOTR

BOTR

Many people have problems with hedge funds and big investment conglomerates. They rake in billions of dollars and live like rock stars.

People hate them so much they protest constantly, occupying this and occupying that.

But, I don’t have a problem with them. In fact, the chants of sympathy for the poor and working class and hand-wringing over income inequality are typically a cover for the protesters who are simply jealous of the big financiers. Had they stumbled onto these opportunities, they would be in the same penthouse, driving the same Porsche.

Read more…

Accelerating Technology, Automated Trading, Investing, Online Investing AI , , , , , , ,

Bitcoin 101: The Ultimate Source for Understanding Bitcoin

December 27th, 2013

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Bitcoin, an alternative currency that is challenging the rights of states to be the exclusive provider of currencies, continues to be hotly debated. Are they wave of the future for currency, or just the next Internet-based bubble? Is Bitcoin a viable form of currency, or simply another form of speculation?

Before you can answer the question, though, you need to find out just what the heck a Bitcoin is. Here, then, is a comprehensive list of information sources, as well as sources of insights, predictions and tutorials on Bitcoin.  This is a perfect place to start if one of your resolutions this year is to start exploring — and possibly investing in — this alt-currency.

This is a beginner’s guide to Bitcoin from Bitcoin Intro.

Go to Udemy and you can learn to stop worrying and love crypto. From the course intro:

The course is divided into several sections. The Core Lecture Path serves as a comprehensive introduction for beginners on all relevant topics necessary to have a deep understanding of Bitcoin including why Bitcoins have value, why they can be used for anonymous transactions, the current economy of Bitcoins, how they are made and distributed as well as speculation.

Take a course in Bitcoin from Khan Academy, one of the leaders in alternative online education.  In this course, you’ll get to hear answers from an expert on questions such as: “What are some general advantages to using Bitcoins in a transaction vs. using Dollars, Euros, Pesos, etc.– i.e., what is the point of their existence? As if the concept of paper money isn’t hard enough to comprehend; now, digital money.”

Here’s another Video Course on Bitcoin.

Need something even more basic? You can find a Bitcoin Wiki and learn how to use Bitcoins at this site.

Start Bitcoin walks you through the Bitcoin process.

Here’s a simple explanation of Bitcoin from Medium.com.

Interesting Bitcoin Investing Alternatives

If you’re ready to level up to beyond-the-basics, Bitcoin is inspiring entrepreneurs to create side businesses and investment alternatives.

This blog examines trading signals for Bitcoin — BTC Trading 

A group of founders created a investment trust called the Bitcoin Investment Trust. The minimum investment is $25,000.

Prediction Sources

The direction Bitcoins will take in 2014 is impossible to predict. There are too many variables and not enough historical data to offer some notion of how Bitcoins will react to different market conditions.

Conversations are divisive about the alt-currency. We have backers  and detractors.

It’s important to point out that we’ve seen pessimistic predictions proven wrong and optimistic forecasts dashed. However, expectations are high for 2014.

Happy learning! And have a Happy New Year!

Please feel free to pass on your comments, questions, and concerns.

Accelerating Technology, Internet, Investing, Online Investing AI , , ,

10 Free Apps to Help You Declare Your Personal Financial Independence

July 1st, 2013

Two things made the American Revolution work: Ideas and Tools.

It was a great idea to become independent and to create a democracy in the new world, dominated by archaic colonialism and monarchism. However, if it wasn’t for the printing press, those ideas would have never got out. If it wasn’t for the rifle, those ideas would have never been defended.

You might say the American Revolution was the ultimate app.

But what about you? Do you have great ideas on how to save money, invest money, and budget money, but don’t have the resources or tools? Here are a few ways to simplify those tasks and make this July 4th — and every day after that — the day you declare your personal financial independence.

And, by the way, all these apps are Free, just like the founding fathers wanted them to be.

Mint.com

Mint made personal financial tasks easier and simpler. Their mobile apps are getting rave reviews, too.

To learn more, go to the Mint Apps page.

Manilla

Manilla apps can help you organize your bill-paying chores. Not paying your bills on time can lead to stress, anger, and… higher bills.

Here’s the page to find out more about Manilla apps.

SigFig

Making a bad investment is one thing, but you don’t know it’s bad unless you can see how bad it really is. SigFig helps you monitor your portfolio — and spot those bad investments. And good ones. Find out more at SigFig.

BillTracker

The BillTracker app helps you monitor your bills and pay them on time. Find out more at BillTracker.

Doxo

Doxo bills itself as a digital file cabinet so you don’t have pesky paper bills floating around mucking things up. You can check out this hand app here.

Forbes Intelligent Investing

Forbes is one of the biggest names in financial news and information. Their Intelligent Investing column is downright educational. You can get a look at the Intelligent Investing app here. Click on the Intelligent Investing tab.

Morningstar Apps

Track all of your investments and study all of your investment ideas with these Morningstar apps.

FX360

Forex people! You need free apps, too. Here’s a nice one from FX 360.

ETrade

From one of the biggest brokers, here’s a great app. Check out ETrade’s suite of mobile apps.

TD Ameritrade

And last but not least, if you use TD Ameritrade as your broker, you might want to plug into this free app.

Accelerating Technology, Investing, Money, Online Investing AI, Success, US Economy

Cognitive Biases — How Thinking Shortcuts May Cause Thinking Blind Spots When You Invest

June 24th, 2013

You do not see the market clearly. No one does. You are peaking through a crack through a wall when you make an investment, or a trade. The mass that blocks your view from true reality is often referred to as “a cognitive bias.” In fact, there isn’t just one cognitive bias that makes up the wall that blocks your view of how things really are; there are dozens.

Cognitive biases are simply thinking shortcuts, ways you process the infinite amount of information that bombards your reality every day. (If you want to impress people, call them “heuristics.”)

Biases aren’t necessarily bad. They are actually forms of pattern recognition — one of the reasons humans remain at the top of the food chain. In fact, you might go crazy if you didn’t have some way to turn the swirling clouds of data that inundate us into sensible patterns. However, if you’re not aware of your own biases and acknowledge that they help you make decisions, these lenses quickly become blinders. Here are a few cognitive biases that might affect how you think about investing.

Anchoring or focalism – this is the tendency to rely too much on one piece of information when making decisions. Some investors have a particular metric when the make their decision and ignore other signs of company performance.

Backfire effect – when something happens to cause you to doubt your belief, you strengthen that belief. Ever buy something after a rapid loss and call it a “buying opportunity”?

Bandwagon effect – just because everyone is buying a house with a high-risk mortgage, you can do the same.

False-consensus effect – the tendency of a person to overestimate how much other people agree with him or her. Just watch any of the financial news networks until you find one that agrees with you.

Information bias – the tendency to seek information even when it cannot affect action.

Focusing effect – the tendency to place too much importance on one aspect of an event. You may experience this when, let’s say, the Fed makes one move, while there are other economic factors that are just important, and you focus on the Fed’s decision.

Optimism bias – the tendency to be over-optimistic, overestimating favorable and pleasing outcomes.

Pessimism bias – the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of negative things happening to them.

Recency bias – events that just happened seem more important. For example, a company has a good quarter — after a string of lousy quarters — and you focus on the new numbers.

Typically, we don’t suffer from one bias — but dozens. Sometimes, these biases are bouncing around at the same time.

Here’s a good list on Wikipedia.

Investing, Money, Online Investing AI, Success, US Economy , ,

Banishment or Unemployment: Why Workers Choose to Stay in Bad Jobs

June 3rd, 2013

There’s an interesting story that some companies in Japan have banishment rooms. According to Marginal Revolution:

“Basically, banishment rooms are departments where companies transfer surplus employees and give them menial or useless tasks or even nothing to do until they become depressed or disheartened enough to quit on their own, thus not getting full benefits, unlike if they were actually let go. Imagine having to stare at a TV monitor for 10 hours at a time each day, in order to look for “program footage irregularities.” Of course companies would not admit to doing this, and instead will make up generic (or even creative) titles and department names like “Business & Human Resource Development Center” or “career development team”

You’ll see this in American operations, too. Hoping to avoid paying out unemployment compensation, some organizations will try to demoralize and demean employees into quitting on their own.

What’s even more dismaying, employees will stick it out. Apparently, Japanese workers will remain in these banishment rooms.  Only 10 percent will leave the company. The rest sit around and scrutinize television for 10 hours a day. A horrible waste of potential. Doubly dismaying: Most studies indicate that employees who are laid off or quit find better jobs: higher paying and more richly satisfying. They tend to perform well in these jobs, too.

So what gives? The Buddha might say it is nothing more than attachment. We are attached to our routines and our relationships. We derive too much of our self-esteem and self-worth from our job titles and the brand of the place where we work, too. I might add that there’s always the fear of the unknown. The saying that comes to mind: The devil that you know is better than the devil you may face in the future.

Somehow, workers become blinded by fear and are unable to see that with unemployment — or even new employment — that new positions bring not just uncertainty, but also opportunity.

What’s your opinion? Do you stay in a bad situation, or do you move on and try a new job? What’s your bottom line?

 

Money, Online Investing AI, Success, US Economy , ,

The Dawn of the Quantum Age Nears

May 27th, 2013
Rose's Law gives you some idea of the super-exponential power quantum computers will offer.

Rose’s Law gives you some idea of the super-exponential power quantum computers will offer.

A few years ago — for fun — I started to read about quantum computing and quantum information. At the time, I believed that a real quantum computer was decades away, especially since that was what most experts were saying.

But, that’s linear thinking — and technology does not often follow linear progressions. Technology increases exponentially. And it may increase super-exponentially, if the latest quantum discoveries continue to flow from research labs and companies, such as D-Wave.

D-Wave recently announced that Google has signed up as one of their quantum computer customers and Google and NASA are teaming up to develop a Quantum AI lab. In case you don’t realize the implications: that’s friggin’ huge.

Quantum information processes use qubits, which are a lot like the bits of information we’re familiar with in binary computing. But, where a binary bit can be in a 1 position or a 0 position, a qubit can be in a 0 position or in a 1 position or anything in between — at the same time. It’s called superposition. Qubits in superposition are capable of massive feats of calculation. And, the more qubits that researchers learn to entangle, the more powerful these computers will become. How powerful? According to How Stuff Works:

A 30-qubit quantum computer would equal the processing power of a conventional computer that could run at 10 teraflops (trillions of floating-point operations per second). Today’s typical desktop computers run at speeds measured in gigaflops (billions of floating-point operations per second).

That’s pretty powerful. However, most experts say that quantum computers are better for certain computations that classic computers don’t even come close to matching. Because of a quantum computer’s ability to detect observation and its ability to massively crunch numbers, QCs make near perfect devices for encryption and cryptography.

But, in my opinion, sending and receiving secret messages is just the start. We don’t even know the full implications. Just a scattering of headlines this week points to the weird behavior of quantum mechanics stretches our understanding of time and space. Photons that are entangled before they even exist? Making a quantum computer out of good old fashioned silicon? We also see quantum technology mentioned in far-future devices: teleportation, time travel, etc.

Right now we look at the quantum computing age and compare it to the last technological sea change, the internet or dotcom age. Sure, it will make spies happy, but what about us? But, the quantum age may be like nothing on the historic charts, even beyond the civilization-molding steps of discovering fire and agriculture. I look at it more like the discovery of language, instead of discovering how to symbolically talk about reality, though, this quantum language will allow us to actually talk to our reality (or realities).

And maybe it will talk back.

 

Accelerating Technology, Investing, Money, Online Investing AI , , ,

The Luckiest Unluckiest Generation

May 6th, 2013

The National Journal makes the point that the Millennial Generation is the unluckiest generation.

Sorta.

Because it is also the luckiest.

The Millennial Generation is loosely defined as the generation of Americans born in the 80s or 90s. Obviously, a lucky generation wouldn’t have the exact date of their creation, right? Just like every tool becomes a weapon and every weapon becomes a tool, technology has shaped this generation’s limitations and opportunities as no other.

The National Journal’s main point — although they’re a little wishy-washy about it — is that technology has replaced a lot of the jobs that former generations could access. Computers have increased production and automation has totally transformed the job market. That’s all true, too. And this is just beginning. We haven’t seen nothing yet.

However, the article stumbles a bit on just what advantages that technology has introduced. After all, Millennials have more computer power in their pockets than most university computer labs had in their facilities just a few decades ago. The technology has created turmoil, but every period of massive change has a transition period.

Technology is also starting to break the chains of wage slavery for this next generation of workers. More Millennials can create their own businesses online. They have access to apps and tools that give them the power of dozens of corporations at their fingertips. There are also more ways to earn money–blogs, websites, app development, affiliate businesses, etc.. We can’t forget, either, that  more Millennials can arrange their work in ways that just was not possible in previous generations.

The jar is definitely half-filled for Millennials.

Or is it half-empty?

What do you think?

 

 

Accelerating Technology, Dreams Come True, Internet, Money, Online Investing AI , ,

Why is Everyone so Down on Entropy?

April 29th, 2013
Entropy by Jef Safi

Entropy by Jef Safi

Entropy has a bad rap.

When you hear about entropy in science class it’s usually described as a messy bedroom, a completely disordered state. It has nothing to do with intelligence, in fact, it looks like the complete opposite of intelligence.

But, according to a Harvard computational physicist, entropy holds the key to intelligence and — defying the bad reputation thrust on it by millions of high school science teachers — entropy is more like a state of exploration, or even play. It’s an insight that could lead to new technologies and has important implications for econophysics and stock trading, believe it or not.

Alexander Wissner-Gross, who is part of both Harvard’s Institute for Applied Computational Science and MIT’s Media Lab, recently published a paper called, “Causal Entropic Forces,” which, using cosmology as its inspiration, seeks to reveal the “deep connections between intelligence and entropy maximization.”

And that gives us a clue to how it works in finances and trading. Wissner-Gross sees entropy as the universe’s way to explore possibilities and to seize future possibilities as possible. As he tells Io9, it’s a lot like playing Go.

Read more…

Accelerating Technology, Automated Trading, Investing, Money, Online Investing AI , , , ,

Crapitalism: The Market Doesn’t Work and That’s Why the Market Works

April 15th, 2013

north_korea

The market is broken and the free market system is not fair — it’s a sham.

I hear that all the time. And it’s absolutely correct.

The free market is not fair. In fact, it can be downright mean.

There’s plenty of evidence that this is correct. You only have to look at the recent economic meltdown to see that the market has failed millions of people in the world. Hard workers have lost jobs. Dishonest investors have screwed honest investors. Businesses and money evaporated overnight.

It’s difficult to tell people who have endured some of the pain of this crash this, but it’s true: the market doesn’t work and that’s why the market works. In other words, systems that can’t fail on their own, never grow on their own. This is adaptation at its finest.

Despite the pain of deep economic corrections, people are struggling back on their feet devising new ways to handle the problem. I don’t know whether Bitcoin will ever be the next currency — but it’s a sign of that innovation process and it’s a process that is happening all over the country.

The ability for the market to readjust is why it continues to be the worst — and best — system we have. Socialism, at best, subsidizes poor economic choices and ideas for as long as possible, then it collapses in a heap. Most countries that are embroiled in socialism rarely see this. It’s just a modern twist on feudalism. There are a group of lords — mainly industrialists and politicians — who provide the bread and circuses; in exchange, the citizenry doesn’t threaten their castles with torches and doesn’t threaten their entrenched businesses with competition.

It can be much worse.

Read more…

Business Strategy, Internet, Investing, Money, Online Investing AI