It’s about what you know.

Because Tina Brown is hopelessly lost in the last century, she buried the most important story of the year, putting it behind a paywall in the initial digital edition of “Newsweek.” “Eunuchs of the Universe: Tom Wolfe on Wall Street Today” is not the besuited writer’s best work. The introduction is poor and you’re not sure where he’s headed, and then…Mr. Wolfe reveals the essence of today’s Wall Street. That it’s no longer about Masters of the Universe, but geeks, with computers…and speed.

Let’s get this straight. Algorithms are important. But even more so is the speed within which their results can be executed. Let me make this perfectly clear. If you’re trading from Kansas, you just can’t compete with someone in New York City. It takes too long for your message to get through.

So there’s been an arms race in communication. Fiber optics. Straight pathway. Tower to tower communication as opposed to underground, because data flows faster above ground.

And you know nothing about this.

But it’s hiding in plain sight.

If you’d just get off of Facebook and YouTube and read.

Now the stock market has always run on speed. Back to when Reuters used carrier pigeons. And what is being transmitted quickly is information. And the rest of the world, including the entertainment business, has run on speedy information forever.

Prior to the Internet era, an entertainment titan would make in excess of a hundred phone calls a day. Do you think he was making deals? No, he was learning things. Extracting information that would help him proceed.

Now most of this information is available to everyone.

You’ve just got to do the work.

It’s not only music distribution that’s been toppled, something the titans had within their iron grip, but all kinds of information has been democratized, has been shaken free. There’s more than anybody can digest, but you’d better get crackin’.

Want to be poor?

Be ignorant.

I see it every damn day. Whether it be the underclass voting for lower income taxes when they don’t pay any or the person who saves $100 and buys an iPhone 4S instead of a 5, not realizing for a hundred bucks more, they’d get LTE, which is the difference between surfing the net on a tractor as opposed to a Ferrari.

And it makes a difference.

What you know, how fast you know it, is your advantage.

The Tom Wolfe article is now online. But it’s essentially meaningless. Because the publicity occurred when it was behind a paywall and virality was stunted.

But now Radiolab has done the story.

Everything you think you know about trading is wrong. It’s not men on the floor, it’s quants in suburbs executing trades much faster than you can blink your eyes making tiny sums over and over again. Only the punter goes for the big win. The professional is all about the edge, the margin, finding what is mispriced and going in for the kill.

Have you got the time for this?

Probably not. You’re sitting at home consuming Kesha, dreaming of striking it big yourself. Not realizing this crap is for consumers, who are ignorant but drive the economy. While the fat cats, those in the know, reap the rewards.

We have a winner and loser society because of information, not taxes. We’ve got an educated class and a dumb one. We’ve got schools that teach business as opposed to how to think. The populace believes a degree is the key to success. No, that’s just an entry ticket. Information and analysis is the way you succeed. If you’re not going to an educational institution that teaches you how to think, you’re wasting your money, you’re going to a glorified paper mill. You’ve got a degree, then what!

But the media has snookered you. Told you you can’t succeed without said sheepskin. You’ve been diverted from the truth. Which is it’s now every man for himself, and who you know is important, but what you know is what truly counts.

And almost everything you need to know is available for free, online.

Sure, you’ve got to dig deep in your area of interest.

But you’ve got to be a generalist too, in order to figure out how it all fits together.

And I believed my enterprise, my newsletter, was about reaching out.

But even more important than that is the feedback loop. I can’t know everything. I didn’t know that that coding video was advertised all over Facebook, driving views. My readers told me that.

Yes, I’ve established a Grand Central of information. If you say you talked to me on the phone, you’re lying. Because I almost never do. Maybe one business call every other week. Usually to an oldster who is not net-savvy. You see just like the Wall Street traders I know it’s about speed. I haven’t got the time to waste on the phone, where you take twenty minutes to talk sports, kiss my butt and then ask for the favor. Let me know in an e-mail, instantly.

As for self-promoters? I ignore them. Completely. It’s meaningless. Google ranks results based on links. If you’ve got none, I know you’re not happening. That you’re going nowhere. You think it’s about the marketing economy, when we live in the information economy. Can I see the bread crumbs of your information on the net and follow the trail back to your work?

If you want to win at this game, and most don’t, they’re not shooting that high, they don’t want to work that hard, you’ve got to be reading all day long. You’re looking for an edge, that no one else has.

The baby boomers are already toast. Who else would waste all that time at lunch?

I’m not saying it’s fair, I’m just saying it is.

It’s not about pay or free. It’s not about piracy.

It’s about information.

What’s the story behind the story?

Used to be only the fat cats knew.

Now you can too.


Tom Wolfe article

Radiolab podcast (fast-forward to 22:00 to hear about Wall Street trading speed):

It Takes a B.A. to Find a Job as a File Clerk“:

Pop Star’s Single, ‘Booty Wave’, Most Likely Civilization’s Downfall“:

Subscribe to the LefsetzLetter

Visit the archive


Category: Think Tank

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

2 Responses to “The Information Age”

  1. rd says:

    It’s two totally different games.

    One is immediate information-based where the speed edge is absolutely essential. We have lots of people doing that, but every now and then, like teenagers in a fast car they they drive the car into a concrete abutment because they aren’t focusing on anything more than a few milliseconds ahead.

    Then there is the Great Race where the objectives are relatively simple: reach an objective that is a long distance away and figure out how to do it in the time alloted. An example of how this is not working on Wall Street these days are the layoffs that are occurring. These are people who didn’t pick up on the fact that rapidly rising trends do not rise forever and the world really doesn’t need a fifth of its economy to be dominated by trading bad securities. They now have the opportunity to think slow and figure out a career that will last longer than a blow-off market cycle.

    Most of us need to be thinking in terms of decades, instead of milliseconds in relationships, careers, and investing. In the end, technology is rapidly changing but people remain largely the same. The ability to understand the world we live in and how we want to live in it over the decades is the single biggest edge we can have over Wall Street. Many people don’t want to put the effort into that, which is their real downfall.

  2. flakester says:

    Brutal… and mostly true.