Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Wall Street

Wall Street (1987). Directed by Oliver Stone, starring Michael Douglas (Gekko), Martin and Charlie Sheen (father and son Carl and Bud Fox). A classic that fully anticipated our age of hyper-finance. Gekko and company look tame compared to LTCM, Enron and our current hedge fund overlords!

Gekko: Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies and cuts through and captures the essence of evolutionary spirit. Greed in all of its forms, greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

Gekko: The richest one percent of this country owns half our country's wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It's bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own.

Carl Fox: Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others.

Personally, I followed the Create path, but I'm not sure I came out ahead :-)


DB said...

> but I'm not sure I came out ahead :-)

Oh c'mon, Hsuski! You built a successful startup that sold for millions, you married a lovely and intelligent woman and procreated, you've got tenure in theoretical physics at an excellent university in a beautiful place. If you're not "ahead", I don't know who is!

steve said...


I guess "ahead" is a relative term, but perhaps I should have used the ;-) instead of :-) ?

It could be that I'm trapped on the hedonic treadmill? :-)

steve said...

Oops, I think that link should be hedonic treadmill:

DB said...

Thanks for the "hedonic treadmill" link. I remember thinking (as a postdoc) that I'd retire at $250k. Now I realize that's only half a house. Maybe in 10 years I'll think it's just a nice car.

> If you're not "ahead", I don't know who is!

Maybe Jim Simons (again featured in today's WSJ, as a benefactor of autism research). Yup, now I wanna be Jim Simons.

steve said...

I saw that WSJ piece and almost posted it here, but thought people might be getting Simons fatigue :-)

That guy is my hero! I found the tidbit about the obviously autistic biologist at Cold Spring Harbor that Simons is working with quite interesting. (The one who played video games during the WSJ interview :-)

BTW, I heard Griffin (Citadel) was a physics major at Harvard, so that makes a pretty large subset of the most successful investors quantitative types -- Simons, Griffin, Thorpe, etc. Also Buffet, in his own way.

"Mr. Simons says he's comfortable judging scientists, since he already runs a "giant research project" studying financial markets. Says Henry Laufer, a Renaissance partner and its chief scientist: "In our non-money moments, we think of ourselves as doing science."

That impressed Nat Heintz, a star professor of genetics and brain development at Rockefeller University in New York. Dr. Heintz accepted a few million dollars from Mr. Simons after concluding that the hedge-fund manager "was someone you could deal with on an intellectual plane."

He also credits Mr. Simons with sparking his interest in autism, a disease to which he hadn't given much previous thought. Dr. Heintz now says autism is "fascinating." He's breeding mice that may help show how the disorder affects nerves in the brain.

Even with some of the world's most talented researchers involved, progress is likely to be slow. "In medical research, there are no people like Warren Buffett or Jim Simons," says Steven Moldin, a senior manager at the NIH's mental-health institute. "There is not some guy who can hit home runs every time and make it go suddenly faster."

Mr. Simons is betting otherwise. So far, the Simonses have handed out 15 grants to researchers, including two Nobel Prize winners. His largest gift so far -- $13.8 million -- has gone to biologist Michael Wigler at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island. Dr. Wigler, a brilliant and reclusive scientist who played computer games during a recent interview, has come up with a new way to scan chromosomes in search of genetic errors. It's expensive, costing more than $1,500 for every person's DNA examined.

Dr. Wigler and Jonathan Sebat, a colleague, say they've scanned the DNA of about 300 people with autism, plus some of their parents and siblings. The lab has turned up a possible problem on the male Y sex chromosome.

Dr. Wigler and Mr. Simons have become friendly. They vacationed together on a boat off Greenland and correspond via email about the research. Once they worked through some statistical problems on a blackboard in Mr. Simons's office."

STS said...

No danger of Simons fatigue, either in math or finance ...

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