Adapting as an investor

I remember well how much I loved to program computers. As a cadet at the Air Force Academy taking lots of astronautical engineering courses, I had to do a lot of computer programming.  These projects were very complex, requiring precise calculations (to 8 significant digits) of the velocity and position of satellites, antenna pointing angles, terrestrial positions, etc. They were done on 286 Zenith computers without hard-drives, so some programs could rake as long as 24 hours to run.

I love the process, though. No matter how difficult the problem, I could always solve it. It was like a big puzzle: figure out what part of the program went askew, make changes to that one part and test it repeatedly, and keep doing that until you got it right. Then move on to the next part and repeat until you got it all solved. My classmates were frequently amazed that I would have the projects done weeks in advance. I just loved the process.

Investing doesn’t work so easily. The difference is the noisy feedback loop. Orbital mechanics is like clockwork. You know the starting situation, you know the physics, so when something goes off track it is easy to see that it’s wrong, and it is easy to figure out where to jump in and fix it.

With investing, the data is much more noisy. By noisy, I mean there are lots of false signals that things are going well when they won’t in the long run, and that they are going poorly when they will go well in the long run. 

In other words, when you make a change to your investing process, it can take years, perhaps even decades to see if you really have it right. That’s not the happy feedback loop of computer programming with instant and clear feedback.

But, that is the nature of the beast. When you see your results aren’t doing what you expect, you need to make changes to adapt, and then wait another couple of years to see how that worked.

The process is the same as it is with computer programming, but the signal is very noisy, meaning you don’t know if things have actually gone wrong or not, and the feedback loop takes years instead of minutes to complete. 

I have to admit, I still love to solve the puzzle. Just like with computer programming, I’m as committed and convinced that I can get it right.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

Adapting as an investor