New Home 21

Reinventing the Financial System

By Marc Rubinstein | June 15, 2021 | 4 Comments

If you’re like me, you’ve been put off from digging deeper into DeFi by the terrible signal-to-noise ratio of anything crypto-related on the interwebs. That’s why I found this DeFi primer (using Maker DAO as a specific example) by ET contributor and banking analyst Marc Rubinstein to be so fantastic.

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This Is What a Wage/Price Inflation Cycle Looks Like

From the ET Forum …

With the jobs report today showing 4% year-over-year wage inflation and 0.4% month-over-month wage inflation, it seems like a good day to repost this note. Personally, I’m delighted that wages continue to rise at a rapid clip. But if you think that any of this happens in a vacuum, if you think that employers aren’t preserving their margins by raising prices more than they’re raising wages … you’re living in a fantasy world.

This is what a wage/price inflation spiral looks like.

— Ben Hunt | August 6, 2021|

Low Demand, Low Supply, High Price Expectations

From the ET Forum …

So that’s where we are in our local real estate market – low demand, low supply, high price expectations – and my sense is that this is where we are in lots of markets … not just CT residential real estate. Maybe it’s just the summer doldrums, I dunno. Maybe I’m just taking my local experience as more meaningful than it is. I’d be really interested to hear if anyone is seeing or experiencing the same, either in RE or anywhere else.

Because this is how stagflation happens.

Seasonality is so tough to parse, especially against pandemic-affected seasonality, but it sure seems like inventory got legitimately bought down in Q4/Q1, after which brokers sold that experience and y-o-y % changes to drive a corresponding increase in supply.

Also no idea wtf is going on in multi-family / condo land around here, but definitely seems distinct from the single-family experience.

— Ben Hunt | July 28, 2021|

Let Me Make the Songs

Epsilon Theory may have gotten its formal start in 2013, but the soft launch took place in 1991. That’s when my partner Ben finished his doctoral work at <lifts nose slightly> a school up in Cambridge. His work there (and his 1997 book, Getting to War) focused on how news could be used to predict the likelihood of war. It also analyzed how news was used by institutions and individuals to foment an appetite for and belief in the necessity of war, which is related to but not the same as the ability to use that news for predictions.

So yes, we were interested to read about Project Cassandra, a collaboration between German academics and military leaders to quantify the risk of conflicts using…literature. The Guardian covers it here in what I think is a very worthwhile read.

Jürgen Wertheimer, who set up Project Cassandra, standing in front of a green chalkboard
Jürgen Wertheimer, head of the Cassandra Project (Source: The Guardian, Dominik Gigler)

The project is really interesting. It confirms, or at least shares, many of the core principles of our Narrative Machine project. Not least among them is the recognition that oft-mined sentiment possesses a fraction of the influence of memes with subjective power that can only be identified objectively through words and phrases of meaning. Or the observation of identifiable, recurring story archetypes.

Leaving aside that we focus on different universes of creative output, our projects DO differ in one respect. The Cassandra Project appears to place great emphasis on the ability to quantify the popular and critical acclaim of a fictional literary work. For example, more popular, more viral, more well-regarded work would have different influence, which is a perfectly sensible hypothesis.

Because we focus on a larger and more frequent dataset of news, blogs, press releases and transcripts, we get to do two different things: first, instead of estimating how much of an audience has heard an idea and how much that idea has changed their minds, we can more easily observe how much a specific memetic idea has reproduced within the dataset over time.

Second, because our dataset includes items which are nominally news / non-fiction content, we can observe the extent to which explicit and implicit opinion language is being deployed, which also provides a window into the narrative-shaping efforts of Common Knowledge missionaries.

Two different approaches to a similar problem. I prefer ours, because I feel more confident saying that an idea has reproductive legs by observing how it changes the language other people use to discuss it, and because knowing some of the intentions of powerful institutions and influential individuals is an indispensable part of any effort to quantify the potential effects of narrative.

But there are absolutely features of the zeitgeist which will only manifest in the arts, in literature, and in the groanings and yearnings of those who make the songs. For that reason alone, we think the Germans have the right of it here in the way that the Scots did before. It’s a very cool project.

Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.

Andrew Fletcher, Commissioner of the Old Parliament of Scotland (1703)

— Rusty Guinn | July 8, 2021 | 12:32 pm

The Political Autotuning of Inflation

The politicization of inflation into a partisan “There Is No Inflation!” TM Narrative by the nudgers and mandarins on the left is really depressing.

The politicization of inflation into a partisan “Biden Inflation!” TM narrative by the clowns and raccoons on the right is really depressing.

It’s really depressing because it makes it impossible for me to say anything on inflation without getting lumped into an insane partisan box. It’s an entirely constructed and false framing of the issue, and I’m just so freakin’ weary of it.

We call this political auto-tuning. We call this a political shock collar.

It’s the go-to move of incumbents in a two-party system with high-peaked bimodal electorate preferences. THIS is why there are no successful centrist politicians. THIS is why there are no stable centrist policies. THIS is why we can’t have nice things.

THIS is why I believe that top-down societal change is impossible, but instead must emerge from the bottom-up through an authentic social movement of Make/Protect/Teach.

Watch from a distance if you like, but when you’re ready … join us.

— Ben Hunt | July 2, 2021 | 11:09 am

Non-Verbal Narrative

We make it no secret that our research program here is all about using natural language processing to identify and measure narratives in the world. But is Narrative truly only shaped by verbal and written communication? Do Missionary statements have to be made with the mouth?

Of course not.

Here’s narrative missionary Max Scherzer, pitcher for the Washington Nationals, providing an exaggerated form of protest against the revised MLB enforcement policy regarding the use of foreign substances. The umps have generally been inspecting hats gloves and belts for these substances. Max decided to give them a little, shall we say, extra on the belt removal.

Max Scherzer begins stripping on the field as baseball's weirdest new rule  takes effect

Here’s Oakland Athletics pitcher Sergio Romo, picking up every nuance of Scherzer’s crystal clear communication to the commissioner’s office.

Sergio Romo ready to strip for foreign substance checks

Scherzer and Sergio’s sticky substance strip show is memetic perfection in the form of malicious compliance. There is no press conference speech either pitcher – or the others who will no doubt mimic their displays in the coming days – could have made that would have more clearly shifted Common Knowledge to the belief that the foreign substances rule was being applied, interpreted and policed in an absurd, preposterous way.

Bold prediction: this narrative doesn’t peak until Joe West enrages Zach Greinke into an NC-17 display on national television.

— Rusty Guinn | June 23, 2021 | 9:21 pm

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Why Am I Reading This Now? 04.08.24

Recent major media stories that feel to us like they’re part of a larger narrativ‌e campaign.



Why Am I Reading This Now? 03.18.24

Recent major media stories that feel to us like they’re part of a larger narrativ‌e campaign.



Recent Notes

Breaking News #22: Israel, Meme Stocks and the Rising Risks Across the Globe

By Harper Hunt | May 23, 2024

Risks are rising on a variety of fronts across the world. And market players are positioning themselves to profit before they are realized. In this episode of Breaking News, we take a tour of some of the major issues we face in the current challenging environment. We discuss the peculiar announcement by Ireland, Norway, and Spain recognizing the Palestinian state, the potential for total war in the Middle East, Rick Rieder’s suggestion for interest rate cuts and the return of Roaring Kitty and the GameStop saga. We also cover President Biden’s questionable housing proposal, and the lessons we can learn from Conan O’Brien’s appearance on the YouTube show Hot Ones.

When You Destroy the Tools of Creativity

By Kyla Scanlon | May 14, 2024

We are in an age of tremendous uncertainty. Trust has evaporated. But agency, the individual expression of trust, has evaporated, too. 

Before we can rebuild trust in institutions, we have to start by rebuilding agency in ourselves. 

The Intentional Investor #4: Bogumil Baranowski

By Harper Hunt | May 14, 2024

In this episode of The Intentional Investor, host Matt Zeigler is joined by Bogumil Baranowski to discuss the power of investing with a multi-generational mindset. Baranowski shares his personal journey from growing up in communist Poland to discovering the transformative potential of free market economies and property rights. We also discuss the importance of viewing wealth as a tree that can be planted, nurtured, and enjoyed by future generations and explore the value of community, education, and personal experiences in shaping one’s perspective on investing and life.

How To Win At Story: Conan’s Hot Ones Masterclass

By Matt Zeigler | May 9, 2024

Please, let’s have a laugh at Conan on Hot Ones, but let’s also think this out together:

How do you win at story?

I’ve got 10 rules to try and help. And, using plenty of examples from the show, let’s see if we can’t get just a little bit better at the stories we tell ourselves too.  

Breaking News #21: Donald Trump and the Story the Media Isn’t Telling

By Harper Hunt | May 9, 2024

In this episode of Breaking News, we explore a range of topics, from the lack of media coverage surrounding the billions of dollars funneled to Donald Trump through his social media company, to the pervasiveness of gambling and speculation in our society. We discuss the embedded wage-price inflationary environment and its potential impact on our fragile, optimized systems. Additionally, we delve into the creative process behind Kelly Clarkson’s hit song “Since U Been Gone” and how it relates to the construction of pop stars, media stories, and political narratives.

The Story that Changes The World

By Tom_Morgan | May 1, 2024

The ‘monomyth’ or Hero’s Journey isn’t just a script for movies. It’s also the script of our society and our individual lives.

If we let it.

The Intentional Investor #3: Howard Lindzon

By Harper Hunt | April 30, 2024

In this episode of The Intentional Investor, host Matt Ziegler interviews Howard Lindzon, the founder and CEO of StockTwits. Lindzon shares his journey from aspiring comedian to stockbroker, entrepreneur, and investor, highlighting the importance of mentorship, tight networks, and adaptability in the ever-changing landscape of business and technology. The conversation covers Lindzon’s early investments in companies like Robinhood and eToro, the evolution of social media platforms like Twitter and YouTube, and the lessons he’s learned from navigating bull and bear markets.

Fidelity Reminds ETF Industry It Doesn’t Have To Care

By Dave Nadig | April 25, 2024

Free is a good price. It’s how we got Fortnite, and Radio, and a terrible internet. People hate paying for things.

That’s what Fidelity was counting on when they decided to make a stink about 9 ETF issuers not signing their revenue sharing deal.

And they’ll win. They always win.

Breaking News #20: Hot Ones and Phony Wars

By Harper Hunt | April 25, 2024

In this episode of Breaking News, we examine the recent situation with NPR and how it relates to the concept of Fiat News. We also delve into the current state of tensions between Iran and Israel and why we may see a ‘phony war” in the coming months. Additionally, we examine the underwhelming sales of Tesla’s Cybertruck and the broader decline of the EV narrative. We also have a dumb question about expansion of NATO and a Cultish Corner on Conan O’Brien’s masterful appearance on the show “Hot Ones”.

The Intentional Investor #2: Justin Castelli

By Harper Hunt | April 23, 2024

In this episode of the Intentional Investor, Matt Zeigler and Justin Castelli explore the intersection of life and investing, discussing the importance of aligning your financial plan with your personal values and vision. Justin shares his unique perspective on setting goals versus having a vision, emphasizing the significance of investing in experiences, relationships, and intellectual property rather than solely focusing on traditional financial metrics. The two discuss the role of financial advisors in helping clients live authentically and the potential for an abundance mindset within the financial system. Justin also touches on his aspirations to support others through creative ventures and the generational wisdom he hopes to pass down to his children.

Cursed Knowledge #28: Casual Gambling in Videogames

By Harper Hunt | April 18, 2024

Gambling is a big deal. And everyone’s got an opinion one way or another. It’s had a pretty insane increase over the last few years. But what happens when Gambling becomes gambling? When it stops being a grand event and is instead a much more insidious and, well, casual thing. Spoiler Alert. Nothing good. It’s now showing up everywhere. From sports, to finance, to politics, to videogames. It’s rarely obvious gambling, and that’s what we need to be worried about.

The Intentional Investor #1: Ben Hunt

By Harper Hunt | April 16, 2024

In this episode of The Intentional Investor, Matt Ziegler has a wide-ranging conversation with Ben Hunt, discussing Ben’s journey from academia to finance and the pivotal moments that shaped his career. Ben shares his lifelong fascination with games, puzzles, and cracking codes, which eventually led him to the world of investing. They delve into Ben’s experiences in academia, the lessons he learned from starting a software company, and his realization that fundamentals and value in investing are ultimately driven by narratives and game theory. Ben also discusses the genesis of Epsilon Theory, and his ongoing quest to find structure in unstructured data and stories. Throughout the conversation, they explore the interconnectedness of human, intellectual, social, and financial capital in shaping one’s life and career.

IT’S. ABOUT. THE. MONEY.

By Ben Hunt | April 11, 2024

If you were a smart guy like MicroStrategy CEO Michael Saylor and you thought a stagflationary tsunami of enormous proportion was going to wash over the US economy regardless of who wins in November, what would you be doing right now?

I think you might be doing whatever you can to get liquid in the global reserve currency without spooking the marks.

Breaking News #19: Number Go Up For November

By Harper Hunt | April 11, 2024

In this episode we discuss how the upcoming November election is shaping the current political and economic landscape. We discuss why inflation, the stock market and the war in the Middle East are all being viewed through a political lens as the election approaches and those with a vested interest seek to influence its outcome . We also discuss the prevalence of conspiracy theories, the erosion of trust in institutions, and the importance of curiosity in a left brain focused world.

I Think The Gun Helps

By Rusty Guinn | April 10, 2024

Our kids are being rewired.

The data implicating the smartphone-based childhood are compelling but not conclusive – and may never be.

So how should governments, communities, schools and families decide what to do?

Breaking News #18: The Rise of the Raccoons

By Harper Hunt | March 28, 2024

As anyone who has ever left their trash lid loose would know, raccoons have a tendency to come in and clean up the leftovers. And they make a huge mess while they do it. That isn’t the only place they exist, though. Raccoons also exist in the financial world, the self help world and a lot of other places. They come in and take what is leftover from what would otherwise be positive innovations and make a mess of them for their own benefit. In this episode, we take a detailed look at raccoons. We look at the tactics they use and how all of us can better spot them before they do their damage. We also discuss the danger of carved out inflation metrics, whether fundamental investing is dead, what steam boat operators have to do with finding your true self and a lot more.

Bitcoin Endgames & The New Hyper-Agents

By Dave Nadig | March 19, 2024

If the HODLers are right, they’re also the new Elites.

Not in a “my thumbdrive will make me the Duke of West Hartford in this post-apocalyptic hellscape” sort of way, but in ugly-but-mainstream scenarios with ugly-but-mainstream power/wealth transfers.

Breaking News #17: The Rise of Financial Nihilism

By Harper Hunt | March 14, 2024

Younger generations today feel like they don’t have a chance. Whether it be rising home prices or income and wealth inequality, they feel that they are starting with a significant disadvantage relative to older generations. One of the responses to this has been to resort to more aggressive gambling when it comes to their investments and their lives. Whether it be sports gambling or investing in riskier investments, some have sought to overcome their starting position by making risky bets. In this episode, we take a deep dive into this idea of financial nihilism and look at its real world implications. We also discuss Elon Musk’s treason allegations against Joe Biden and also look at the amazing behind the scenes story of the creation of the song “We Are the World.”

And You Wonder Why Bitcoin and Gold are at Record Highs

By Ben Hunt | March 12, 2024

The Fed’s inflation-fighting credibility is shot and everyone in Washington and on Wall Street is in the bag for nominal growth, ie Number Go Up on EVERYTHING, through the November election.

After that … well, as Louis XV so aptly put it: après moi, le déluge.

Wheeee!

Financial Nihilism

By Travis Kling | March 12, 2024

The Boomers have all the money. The American Dream of upward mobility is dead for you. That is Financial Nihilism.

So if you’re on the wrong end of this, what do you do about it?

You gamble. You f**king gamble.