REVIEW: "The Predictors", Thomas A. Bass
- BKPRDCTR.RVW 20000319
"The Predictors", Thomas A. Bass, 1999, 0-8050-5756-0, U$25.00/C$38.50
%A Thomas A. Bass
%C 115 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011-4195
%I Henry Holt
%O U$25.00/C$38.50 212-886-9378 fax: 212-633-0748, 212-807-6654
%P 309 p.
%T "The Predictors: How a Band of Maverick Physicists Used Chaos
Theory to Trade Their Way to a Fortune on Wall Street"
This is not a technical book, so it would be unfair to say that it
does not seriously cover the topic of chaos theory: that is not the
book's intent. In fact, for those with no background in economics or
chaos, the work does provide some decent explanations, although it
would be difficult to call the material on either field anything of an
introduction. Still, the story does outline what might be a working
definition of the fields, a vague and hazy idea, to be sure, but one
that is probably more solid than the mystical notions held by most of
the general populace.
Appropriately to the topic, the tale starts out in the midst of the
chaos of the new startup, introducing the dramatis personae in a whirl
of names and activities. The volume proceeds with chapters that
alternately follow the company and the background, so that only slowly
does a structure rise out of the confusion and do we realize who (and
why) these people are. (And we don't learn much about some of them.)
In fact, I was not entirely sure, as the work began, that I was not
reading a rather banal piece of fiction, and only the lack of a
dramatic catastrophe seems to lend credence to its claims for reality.
Those who have worked in technical startup companies will recognize
much of what does on, but I wonder if a general readership will.
Bass's bare bones dialogue implies the feelings behind the debates,
but doesn't completely explain them. Technical workers will recognize
the egalitarian principles espoused by those coming from a primarily
academic or theoretical background, and business leaders will
recognize the frustration of trying to explain the concepts of value
and marketability to a workforce used to judging people only by
elegance of concepts. The condensation that allows day long meetings
to be reduced to a few pages of dialogue also loses most of the nuance
and social dynamic involved.
It is possibly also important to note that Bass is not the
dispassionate observer that one might, at first, think. He was a
member of the group earlier involved with roulette prediction,
although his role is not specified, and his fraternization is passed
over very briefly. Still, his connection does not lend credibility to
the book, and, particularly when dealing with some of the more
significant claims, one is reminded of the old folk question, "if
you're so smart, why ain't you rich?"
At the end of the book, we seem to have a company that has produced a
superior form of charting, and has been successful at selling it.
This is nice, if not quite the story we were promised by the subtitle.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 2000 BKPRDCTR.RVW 20000319
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