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The Bear’s Lair: AI offers a vision of Artificial Stupidity

We learned last week that Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) is investing $10 billion in OpenAI for 75% of its profits, a stake that will drop to 49% when Microsoft has recouped its investment. Since OpenAI’s principal asset has become the artificial intelligence writing software ChatGPT, this indicates the perceived value of AI applications. Yet we have also […]

The Bear’s Lair: 1873 holds lessons for today

Moving into a new year, we naturally look for interesting anniversaries, from which lessons can be drawn. In 2023, there are no centenaries, bicentenaries or tercentenaries of interest, while I have written extensively recently about the 1970s, in which 1973 of the “Arab Oil Crisis” is the crucial year. However, 2023 is also the 150th […]

The Bear’s Lair: Canals, not steam catalyzed the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution is traditionally held to have begun in the middle 1780s with James Watt’s invention of the rotary steam engine with condenser attached. (The condenser alone did not allow Watt’s engine to power machinery, since it still used the jerky Newcomen “beam” motion.) Yet there was another innovation, almost 20 years earlier, which […]

The Bear’s Lair: Regulators — killing new industries since 1831!

This column has not written enough about the economic damage done by excessive regulation, partly because most of that damage takes the form of new businesses snuffed out. Something that has been eliminated from existence is by definition difficult to write about. However, in my Industrial Revolution researches I have found an example of regulation […]

The Bear’s Lair: Facilis Descensus Averno

“The gates of Hell are open night and day Smooth the descent, and easy is the way: But to return, and view the cheerful skies In this the task and mighty labor lies.” Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid, translated by John Dryden, published in 1697 when poetry was poetry, is a useful window on China’s […]

The Bear’s Lair: They did plague recovery better in 1350

We are now slowly emerging from the scourge of Covid-19 and the main change in our economic management has been a massive surge in state spending, together with a call for a “Great Reset” to erode our freedoms further. It is therefore worth examining the emergence from two previous celebrated English outbreaks of plague, in […]

The Bear’s Lair: Brexit may re-kindle global innovation

Peter Thiel is not alone in wondering where all the major technological innovations went. From the other end of the political spectrum Chicago professor Robert Gordon wrote a best-seller “The Rise and Fall of American Growth” speculating that U.S. productivity growth is slowing to zero. Yet if you look back, from the Industrial Revolution until […]

The Bear’s Lair: Back the bros against the hedgies

“Bros” connecting through the social media forum “WallStreetBets” last week staged a massive rally in the shares of GameStop (NYSE:GME) causing huge losses to a hedge fund that had shorted the stock. Most commentary suggested this should be a rare occurrence, as the hedge fund was a professional investor performing a valuable market function, while […]

The Bear’s Lair: Will the Bear’s Lair see Bearmageddon?

The twentieth anniversary of this “Bear’s Lair” column passed in late October. During that period, the stock market has risen, but pretty much every other indicator of U.S. economic health has declined. Actuarially at age 70, I can expect to be writing this column for another 14 years and 3 months (though the column’s coherence […]