The Visible Hand: A Review of The Guidance of an Enterprise Economy2018
It is a rare pleasure and honor for a former undergraduate student in Martin Shubik’s popular game theory classes at Yale University to be asked to write a review of his professor’s latest book, The Guidance of an Enterprise Economy, published by MIT Press in 2016. In contrast to the old saw in which “the student is now the master,” this volume confirms that the student is still the student and the master is—and always will be—the master.
Shubik, the world-renowned game theorist, and his co-author, Eric Smith, an impressive physicist cum biologist cum economist at the Santa Fe Institute, have undertaken an ambitious agenda to formulate a grand synthesis of the different levels of economic theory—financial, microeconomic, organizational, and macroeconomic—and reintroduce dynamics within the framework of general equilibrium (GE). They have written a fascinating, provocative, and occasionally frustrating volume that moves a much-neglected topic forward.
If Liberal Democracies Can Resist the Urge to Micromanage the Economy, Big Data Could Catalyze a New Capitalism2018
Capitalism is a powerful tool: By compressing enormous amounts of information regarding supply and demand into a single number—the market price—buyers and sellers are able to make remarkably intelligent decisions simply by engaging in self-interested behavior. But in a big-data world, where a supercomputer can fit into our pocket and a simple Internet search allows us to find every product under the Sun, do we still need it?
In Reinventing Capitalism in the Age of Big Data, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Thomas Ramge argue that big data will transform our economies on a fundamental level. Money will become obsolete, they argue, replaced by metadata. Instead of a single market price for each commodity, sophisticated matching algorithms will use a bundle of specifications and personal preferences to select just the right product for you. Artificial intelligence powered by machine-learning techniques will relentlessly negotiate the best possible transaction on your behalf. Capital will still be important, they concede, but increasingly just for its signaling content. “Venture informers” might even replace venture capitalists.
If Regulations Don’t Bend, They’ll Break2018
The tenth anniversary of the disastrous weekend that nearly brought down the global financial system is fast approaching. But in many of the jurisdictions that were central to the crisis, financial regulations introduced in the aftermath, aimed at preventing a repeat, are now being rolled back. The pendulum of regulation is now swinging back towards fewer and looser restrictions – and if the past is any guide, a ramp-up in systemic risk exposures will be the result.
Why Robo-Advisors Need Artificial Stupidity2018
‘Fintech’ is transforming the financial sector at a pace that is now obvious even to the casual observer. We see this not only in daily headlines about initial coin offerings or financial applications of blockchain technology, but also in the daily experiences of the average consumer: paper cheques consigned forever to desk drawers, automatic currency conversions on a trip abroad, the rapid approval of an online loan – and most excitingly for some, personal investing.
Financial Risks Don’t Go on Holiday2018
August is typically when Wall Street goes to the beach, the mountains, or just home to recharge for a week or two. Many Europeans take the entire month off. But financial markets have a cruel knack of ruining holidays. As we lie in our hammocks this August, we might do well to recall a remarkable event that occurred, seemingly without warning, 11 years ago this month in the run-up to the financial crisis.
Cryptocurrencies: King’s Ransom or Fool’s Gold?2018
The increasing dominance of technology in daily lives is finally penetrating the financial industry as well. The growing popularity of algorithmic trading, mobile payment platforms and robo-advisers is just the beginning of the fintech revolution. But perhaps the most radical - and controversial - innovation in today's headlines is cryptocurrencies. Extreme volatility makes products an unreliable store of value - for now.
All the News that’s Fit to Print2018
The information revolution has transformed everyday life for billions of people throughout the world. For example, according to mobile phone research group GSMA Intelligence, there are currently over 5 billion unique mobile phone subscribers, out of an estimated global population of 7.6 billion. This is the equivalent of a mobile phone for every person on the planet between the ages of 15 and 65.
Doing Well By Doing Good2018
In the past decade, financial industry excesses have been cited as the source of many ills afflicting economies and political systems in the West. But, if used responsibly, finance could help provide the cure for some of humanity’s most pressing problems – from cancer to fossil fuel depletion and climate change.
Is Smaller Better? A Proposal to Use Bacteria for Neuroscientific Modeling2018
Bacteria are easily characterizable model organisms with an impressively complicated set of abilities. Among them is quorum sensing, a cell-cell signaling system that may have a common evolutionary origin with eukaryotic cell-cell signaling. The two systems are behaviorally similar, but quorum sensing in bacteria is more easily studied in depth than cell-cell signaling in eukaryotes. Because of this comparative ease of study, bacterial dynamics are also more suited to direct interpretation than eukaryotic dynamics, e.g., those of the neuron. Here we review literature on neuron-like qualities of bacterial colonies and biofilms, including ion-based and hormonal signaling, and a phenomenon similar to the graded action potential. This suggests that bacteria could be used to help create more accurate and detailed biological models in neuroscientific research. More speculatively, bacterial systems may be considered an analog for neurons in biologically based computational research, allowing models to better harness the tremendous ability of biological organisms to process information and make decisions.
Variety Is the Spice of Life: Irrational Behavior as Adaptation to Stochastic Environments2018
The debate between rational models of behavior and their systematic deviations, often referred to as “irrational behavior”, has attracted an enormous amount of research. Here, we reconcile the debate by proposing an evolutionary explanation for irrational behavior. In the context of a simple binary choice model, we show that irrational behaviors are necessary for evolution in stochastic environments. Furthermore, there is an optimal degree of irrationality in the population depending on the degree of environmental randomness. In this process, mutation provides the important link between rational and irrational behaviors, and hence the variety in evolution. Our results yield widespread implications for financial markets, corporate behavior, and disciplines beyond finance.
Momentum, Mean-Reversion, and Social Media: Evidence from StockTwits and Twitter2018
In this article, the authors analyze the relation between stock market liquidity and real-time measures of sentiment obtained from the social-media platforms StockTwits and Twitter. The authors find that extreme sentiment corresponds to higher demand for and lower supply of liquidity, with negative sentiment having a much larger effect on demand and supply than positive sentiment. Their intraday event study shows that booms and panics end when bullish and bearish sentiment reach extreme levels, respectively. After extreme sentiment, prices become more mean-reverting and spreads narrow. To quantify the magnitudes of these effects, the authors conduct a historical simulation of a market-neutral mean-reversion strategy that uses social-media information to determine its portfolio allocations. These results suggest that the demand for and supply of liquidity are influenced by investor sentiment and that market makers who can keep their transaction costs to a minimum are able to profit by using extreme bullish and bearish emotions in social media as a real-time barometer for the end of momentum and a return to mean reversion.
New Business Models to Accelerate Innovation in Pediatric Oncology Therapeutics: A Review2018
Few patient populations are as helpless and in need of advocacy as children with cancer. Pharmaceutical companies have historically faced significant financial disincentives to pursue pediatric oncology therapeutics, including low incidence, high costs of conducting pediatric trials, and a lack of funding for early-stage research. Review of published studies of pediatric oncology research and the cost of drug development, as well as clinical trials of pediatric oncology therapeutics at ClinicalTrials.gov, identified 77 potential drug development projects to be included in a hypothetical portfolio. The returns of this portfolio were simulated so as to compute the financial returns and risk. Simulated business strategies include combining projects at different clinical phases of development, obtaining partial funding from philanthropic grants, and obtaining government guarantees to reduce risk. The purely private-sector portfolio exhibited expected returns ranging from −24.2% to 10.2%, depending on the model variables assumed. This finding suggests significant financial disincentives for pursuing pediatric oncology therapeutics and implies that financial support from the public and philanthropic sectors is essential. Phase diversification increases the likelihood of a successful drug and yielded expected returns of −5.3% to 50.1%. Standard philanthropic grants had a marginal association with expected returns, and government guarantees had a greater association by reducing downside exposure. An assessment of a proposed venture philanthropy fund demonstrated stronger performance than the purely private-sector–funded portfolio or those with traditional amounts of philanthropic support. A combination of financial and business strategies has the potential to maximize expected return while eliminating some downside risk—in certain cases enabling expected returns as high as 50.1%—that can overcome current financial disincentives and accelerate the development of pediatric oncology therapeutics.
Patient-Centered Clinical Trials2018
We apply Bayesian decision analysis (BDA) to incorporate patient preferences in the regulatory approval process for new therapies. By assigning weights to type I and type II errors based on patient preferences, the significance level (a) and power (1 b) of a randomized clinical trial (RCT) for a new therapy can be optimized to maximize the value to current and future patients and, consequently, to public health. We find that for weight-loss devices, potentially effective low-risk treatments have optimal as larger than the traditional one-sided significance level of 5%, whereas potentially less effective and riskier treatments have optimalas below 5%. Moreover,the optimal RCT design, including trial size, varies with the risk aversion and time-to-access preferences and the medical need of the target population.
Use of Bayesian Decision Analysis to Minimize Harm in Patient-Centered Randomized Clinical Trials in Oncology2017
Importance Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) currently apply the same statistical threshold of alpha = 2.5% for controlling for false-positive results or type 1 error, regardless of the burden of disease or patient preferences. Is there an objective and systematic framework for designing RCTs that incorporates these considerations on a case-by-case basis?
Objective To apply Bayesian decision analysis (BDA) to cancer therapeutics to choose an alpha and sample size that minimize the potential harm to current and future patients under both null and alternative hypotheses.
Data Sources We used the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database and data from the 10 clinical trials of the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology.
Study Selection The NCI SEER database was used because it is the most comprehensive cancer database in the United States. The Alliance trial data was used owing to the quality and breadth of data, and because of the expertise in these trials of one of us (D.J.S.).
Data Extraction and Synthesis The NCI SEER and Alliance data have already been thoroughly vetted. Computations were replicated independently by 2 coauthors and reviewed by all coauthors.
Main Outcomes and Measures Our prior hypothesis was that an alpha of 2.5% would not minimize the overall expected harm to current and future patients for the most deadly cancers, and that a less conservative alpha may be necessary. Our primary study outcomes involve measuring the potential harm to patients under both null and alternative hypotheses using NCI and Alliance data, and then computing BDA-optimal type 1 error rates and sample sizes for oncology RCTs.
Results We computed BDA-optimal parameters for the 23 most common cancer sites using NCI data, and for the 10 Alliance clinical trials. For RCTs involving therapies for cancers with short survival times, no existing treatments, and low prevalence, the BDA-optimal type 1 error rates were much higher than the traditional 2.5%. For cancers with longer survival times, existing treatments, and high prevalence, the corresponding BDA-optimal error rates were much lower, in some cases even lower than 2.5%.
Conclusions and Relevance Bayesian decision analysis is a systematic, objective, transparent, and repeatable process for deciding the outcomes of RCTs that explicitly incorporates burden of disease and patient preferences.
Sharing R&D Risk in Healthcare via FDA Hedges2017
The high cost of capital for firms conducting medical research and development (R&D) has been partly attributed to the government risk facing investors in medical innovation. This risk slows down medical innovation because investors must be compensated for it. We propose new and simple financial instruments, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hedges, to allow medical R&D investors to better share the pipeline risk associated with FDA approval with broader capital markets. Using historical FDA approval data, we discuss the pricing of FDA hedges and mechanisms under which they can be traded and estimate issuer returns from offering them. Using various unique data sources, we find that FDA approval risk has a low correlation across drug classes as well as with other assets and the overall market. We argue that this zero-beta property of scientific FDA risk could be a main source of gains from trade between issuers of FDA hedges looking for diversified investments and developers looking to offload the FDA approval risk. We offer proof of concept of the feasibility of trading this type of pipeline risk by examining related securities issued around mergers and acquisitions activity in the drug industry. Overall, our argument is that, by allowing better risk sharing between those investing in medical innovation and capital markets more generally, FDA hedges could ultimately spur medical innovation and improve the health of patients.