Week of August 20, 2018

A few things of note from around the Internet this week…

Models

Rusty Guinn on challenging the priors that we’ve built up during times of peace and stability:

Often, the strong evidence that shuts down our questions looks like a long series of seemingly predictive data. Long-term equity returns are always positive. Stocks and bonds are negatively correlated. Investors should ignore the noise and keep to simple balanced portfolios. Value, low volatility, momentum and illiquidity all have a premium. U.S. residential real estate prices can’t fall. What we often miss is that the boring consistency between posterior and prior was being driven by an unexamined inference about the state of the world. In other words, the inferences we start from usually reflect a complex system of other inferences that we’ve accepted as givens. Wars don’t happen any more. Globalism and free trade are here to stay. Racism is dead and gone. Central banks have figured out government indebtedness problems. Markets are mature and liquid.

Cult

Douglas Rushkoff, studier of cults, on the Cult of Trump:

For a cult leader I studied in New York, this meant a shift from I am not having sex with the women to I am not having sex with underage women to I didn’t get the 14-year-old pregnant to it’s ultimately not wrong for me to get a 14-year-old pregnant. For Trump, we can trace a similar trajectory from there was no collusion to it’s a witch hunt to collusion is not a crime anyway. Politicians who have already committed to the lesser lies find they must accept the more difficult ones. In for a penny, in for a pound. Failure of the administration is not an option for Republicans who have made the devil’s bargain. If the leader goes down, they go down with him. By the time they realize what’s happened, there’s no way out.

Houston!

Brett Martin on America’s coolest city:

But a good deal of what's happening in Houston feels more organic and idiosyncratic than what an urban-studies expert might devise in a PowerPoint presentation—an energy that feels born of two major factors: one, the growth that has turned the city's diverse but discrete bubbles into a series of unavoidable Venn overlaps, allowing cultures to clash, cohabitate, and collaborate; the other, a pervading sense of independent frontier wildness.

War

A terrifying tale of the far-reaching consequences of a modern computer virus:

For days to come, one of the world’s most complex and interconnected distributed machines, underpinning the circulatory system of the global economy itself, would remain broken. “It was clear this problem was of a magnitude never seen before in global transport,” one Maersk customer remembers. “In the history of shipping IT, no one has ever gone through such a monumental crisis.”

While many in the security community still see NotPetya’s international victims as collateral damage, Cisco’s Craig Williams argues that Russia knew full well the extent of the pain the worm would inflict internationally. That fallout, he argues, was meant to explicitly punish anyone who would dare even to maintain an office inside the borders of Russia’s enemy. “Anyone who thinks this was accidental is engaged in wishful thinking,” Williams says. “This was a piece of malware designed to send a political message: If you do business in Ukraine, bad things are going to happen to you.”