Friday, November 29, 2019

Useless Activity

A recommendation for a podcast caught my eye recently because it hinted that there was some interesting discussion of Nortel. It turned out that the Nortel discussion wasn’t interesting at all, but I did have a strong reaction to the rest of the podcast.

The three speakers went on for about an hour on a wide range of active investing topics, and all I could think was that I can’t believe I wasted a decade of my life on this crap.

It’s one thing to have a hobby that contributes to an otherwise balanced life, but it’s another to devote a huge proportion of your waking hours to such a societally useless pursuit. If these three guys had chosen to plant trees instead of pick stocks, the world would be a slightly better place. It would be fantastic if investors woke up and stopped paying huge amounts for portfolio management. This would eliminate the incentive for so many brilliant young minds to waste their lives on useless pursuits.

8 comments:

  1. Well said MJ! There is way too much useless content on blogs, social media and TV for that matter.

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    1. @Marko: I was thinking that the work on active investing was the main useless activity, but the podcast itself is part of it all as well.

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  2. I'm sure that somewhere out there is a 2-hour podcast full of useless arguments about tree planting. You can't stop human nature!

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    1. @Richard: The podcasts about tree planting may be a waste of time, but at least tree planing itself is useful. Investment management along with podcasts about it are all useless societally.

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  3. Who knows, maybe the next Warren Buffett is listening and a deeply misguided comment on the podcast sparks a thought that proves critical as she provides a bailout during the credit crisis of 2095.

    It's not well appreciated that the efficiency available to us is so high, and the number of good steps required is so low, that it's quite already if the majority of our time is a complete waste. As it is in retirement savings, so it is in life.

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    1. @Richard: I have no doubt that the massive amount of brainpower we devote to analyzing markets has some benefits. But the loss of so many of the best minds in the world to a zero-sum game is tragic. Imagine if even half of these brilliant people had chosen medicine or engineering instead. The advances could have been of tremendous benefit.

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  4. Active investment plays an important role in directing funds to successful businesses and asset price discovery. The only reason passive works is because the markets are relatively efficient which wouldn’t be the case without active

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    1. @BHCh: Yup, 0.1% of the brainpower devoted to active investing is useful. The rest exists because we wildly overpay stock-pickers to choose stocks on our behalf.

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