Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf

I have slouched in recent months if not years on writing book and movie reviews, which used to be a regular feature here on the blog. Part of it is that we haven't been watching movies as much as television shows.  But I have been reading.

The Hour Between Dog and Wolf: Risk Taking, Gut Feelings, and the Biology of Boom and Bust, by John Coates, is a tour de force, but it is not light reading. He was a trader at Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank before going back to Cambridge to get a PhD in Neuroscience, if there is such a field. He writes about various parts of and influences on our brain and neurological systems: the amygdala, the hypothalamus, testosterone, dopamine, cortisol and a bunch of other stuff that I honestly can't remember, but roughly it's about how our brains and nervous systems process danger and stress and react to it, how we influence those around us in so doing -- and thereby shade into the realm of an epidemiology of fear and stress -- how some individuals do better than others, and how institutions, particularly financial institutions, could reform themselves to help them do a better job handling other people's money.

Obviously, this is a pertinent book here at the beginning of 2016, a stressful time when everyone in the world is trying to figure out what is happening, what will happen next, and what to do about it. I wish I could retain it all and synopsize it neatly for you, but I think the moral to the story is this: there is a profoundly physical component to how we handle stress, including market stress, and that physical component is in turn informed by our habits and lived experience, Over time, we can coach ourselves to be less reactive.

Blech. I should have written this weeks ago, when I finished the book. Instead I started reading another one.

No comments: