Monday, March 9, 2009

Antilock brakes

In July 1998 I attended a lecture entitled Mathematics in Finance given by Robert C. Merton at a math conference in Toronto. Someone asked if these new mathematical tools were making investing safer. The gist of the reply was no, it was like antilock brakes, you just drove faster. With the addition that you was referring to Wall Street types (as opposed to the no doubt more cautious mathematicians in the audience).

At the time Merton was involved with LTCM which was already in a bit of trouble and blew up shortly thereafter. I have sometimes wondered since if Merton had a sense of foreboding when he gave this answer.

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