Being Wrong

Howard has a great (and short!) post on how blogging publicly gives you a timeline on how you were thinking at a given time. He’s right, it is awesome to be able to go back and see what you were thinking and evaluate it in hindsight.

Like my “What Is Going To Happen In 2019” post.

Sitting here two months and a few days into 2019, I could not have been more wrong about the first couple predications I made in that post.

The stock market has been on fire and the President is still firmly in charge.

Of course all of that could change.

It is still early days in 2019.

But going back and re-reading that post is super helpful in reminding me that my assumptions may be wrong and I need to re-evaluate the assumptions to make sure I am heading in the right direction.

And blogging (aka taking a stand publicly) is a great way to do that.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. JaredMermey

    Wrong or early? Although sometimes there is no difference.

    1. JamesHRH

      Early is only wrong if cash flow is involved.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        In 1995 I was deep into interactive, computer based romantic matchmaking. I was too gullible: I believed that IBM had the multimedia software ready. They did not. Generally the computing WAS ready but only at enormous costs, e.g., high end graphics workstations, Sun, SGI.Sure, later, with (1) a good TCP/IP stack on all new Windows and Linux computers, (2) good, standard software for handling images, sound, and video, (3) HTTP, HTML, and wide distribution of good Web browser software, the world was READY!!!! Then soon, with Microsoft’s .NET, ASP,NET, ADO.NET, SQL Server, and Google ads, the sole, solo founder of Plenty of Fish was getting $10 million a year, expanded to 70 people, and sold out for $500+ million. I was too soon!!!By then I was gullible again: Tom Magnanti, Dean of Science at MIT gave a Goldman lecture at Johns Hopkins on using optimization to design the backbone and core of the Internet. Well, Magnanti was in optimization — so am I! And I know Goldman — he was the Chair of the committee that approved my Ph.D. dissertation in optimization, stochastic optimal control. So, I got into attacking the Internet design problem. I was not the only one: A group in Dallas tried. Their lead technical guy was at SMU and bailed out. I flew down for an interview — the company was in shambles, totally confused about the problem of P versus NP, from drinking some really bad Kool-Aid. I was wrong: To sell that stuff, needed a much better offering and presentation to the top few dozen candidate customers. COULD save a bundle, maybe 15% of capex, which Bell Labs estimated in their earlier efforts in such network design and which got the problem of P versus NP famous. I didn’t realize that investors would ignore Magnanti, Goldman, Bell Labs, and me.I did some good work in anomaly detection for server farms and networks. It remains the best at the important problem it solves. I thought that investors would be interested — nope. I didn’t understand that the investors would NOT invest in the promise of some applied math for an important problem and, instead, would invest in essentially only a going, growing business with revenue, or at least some form of traction.The US DoD will invest that way — the commercial information technology world will NOT.Tough lessons to learn. For all three, in a sense, I was too early.My present startup doesn’t need investors, only cheap computing, Microsoft’s .NET, my applied math, my coding, the Internet, ad networks, and USERS, and there are plenty of all of those. So this time I’m not too early. Indeed, everyone else is too late!

        1. ci5er

          You’re too early for your CO2 predictions to go mainstream!We have too many cultists (and Bloomberg, BIRM) ready to burn trillions of growth and 3rd world lives to satisfy their cultist fantasies.To strange for words – because these are technocrats that apparently even do math! (Just not on this).On HN – I’m my username here. Please let me know yours – I’d love to read your comments.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Thanks for your interest.You are fully correct: The climate change alarmists would kill — likely have been killing — tens of millions of people in poor countries for no good reason. Now with the Green New Deal, hysterical, irrational AOC and nearly all the Democrat POTUS candidates would kill, my guess, 10+ million US citizens in the next 10 years.I know; I know; I know; we’re supposed just to guess that the alarmist politicians are just fooling, are just doing politics, and that there would be no actual harm. Lots of people just go along with the political fad, movement, tribe, whatever in a way that is seemingly harmless.Maybe a guess would be that as real harm starts, there will be push back with the only downside lots of wasted media noise: Nope. A lot of harm has happened already. With the UN, the Paris Agreement, and much more, there are serious threats of much more harm. Now with the Green New Deal, we are looking at killing tens of millions of US citizens.That the waste would be only media noise is nonsense: Sometimes politicians do a LOT of harm, in history the most of anything. When they promise loud and clear upfront that they are going to try to kill tens of millions of people, we need at least to object.I’m objecting. I’ve objected here on AVC and on HN.If this subject were about rationality at all, then long ago the movement never would have started and/or even just my objections would have just shut up the whole movement. But, instead, my objections can’t stop even a drop of the nonsense.On any morning a lie can circle the globe before the truth can get his shoes on. And the climate change alarmist lies have been circulating for many years by ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, NYT, especially NYT, WaPo, PBS, Nova, etc.Some people here at AVC have guessed my Hacker News user ID. If I confirm it in public, then there might be more — that is, additional — social media attackers paid by the alarmist special interests to attack me on Hacker News.I don’t want to be a public person. Trump is doing that and doing very well at it, at astoundingly high cost. We’re very lucky to have him. I can’t even start to do that.Besides, I can’t fight the nasty politics: If the Democrats want to push the climate change scare stuff for whatever reason, as it is, against all solid evidence, then poor little me can’t do anything about it.I’ve done a good job debunking the alarmist nonsense. If now people want to believe that alarmist stuff, or even just to put up with it, that’s on them. They are complicit or to blame for hurting or killing millions of people, and that is on THEM.For anyone with any interest at all in any rationalism, the videoThe Great Global Warming Swindleat…will provide overwhelmingly good evidence to stab a stake in the heart of that hysterical, irrational, lying, dangerous monster forever. Just watch the damn movie.I have made my contribution to rationality and good citizenship. Now I have other things to do.

  2. LIAD

    Without an opinion one can’t ever be wrong but equally they can’t ever be right. – We’re all in the business of publicising our assumptions. The investments you make, the companies we build. We’re in professions which naturally have skin in the game.Bastardizing Churchill:You have been wrong? Good. That means you’ve had an opinion about something, sometime in your life.

  3. Greg Kieser

    It defies logic – and you were, rightly, being logical. We appreciate you being humble enough to reflect on it!*******Greg Kieser** Founder of – an NYC-based think-tank/angel investment firm. ** Author of “Dear Machine: A Letter to a Super-Aware/Intelligent Machine” –

  4. Rick_Robinson

    Love this

  5. JamesHRH

    It is a great record. More people would do it if it was not so depressing to have no reaction every day.You need the sizzle of controversy and most people (and good predictions) are not that sizzly.Kudos to Jim Peterson for nailing the stock market / IPO calls on your post.Stunned that Howie sold into the 2009 crash.Man it would be great for comment growth if Disqus allowed you to ‘@’ people who are not active in the conversation but are active on Disqus.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Makes the case of Howard Marks remarkable. He wrote his first memo in 1990 and sent them to all his clients (initially hard-copies). For the next 10 years, while infrequent, he kept writing memos and sending them to his clients.Crickets. He says that not only did nobody agree or disagree with anything he said, not one client acknowledged they got his memo. Not one person in 10 years.Eventually, he wrote a memo on January 2, 2000 called bubble warning of over-valuations in the market. The timing was perfect. Being too early in the markets is indistinguishable from being wrong…if he had warned a year earlier, he would have been wrong.His memos suddenly became an overnight phenomenon after 10 years.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        From all I can see, the James Simons story is better.

  6. DJL

    it takes a lot of courage to make predictions and then own up to them. While you may not be hitting home runs in politics and stock markets (today) – in the future of tech and investment theses you have a pretty rock solid record.If only the news media has the same courage – to go back and say “Damn, we were wrong about that.” Sadly, that is not going to happen with President Trump and Russia collusion. The drum will keep beating.

    1. SFG

      Russia collusion will never go away. It can’t. That little thing called ego.

  7. Adam Parish

    This reminds me of the line from Hamilton…”If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”

  8. jason wright

    ‘Trump’, the media’s voodoo doll.Never base assumptions on the media’s dark cult.

    1. Guy Lepage

      The US media is probably the easiest to manipulate in the world due to the extreme form of freedom of speech and massive gap in education. One just has to be a mediocre marketer to play the media.

      1. jason wright

        “play”, or pay? I think it’s the extreme form of capitalism i see in the US that explains what you describe as “manipulation”, but i see as efficiency of access.

  9. William Mougayar

    You and Howard have the courage to write daily, and that’s a big deal most of us don’t even come close to. You can’t be right about everything, but it helps to be right on many things, some of which are iterations of the wrong things.

    1. Richard

      courage? courage is reserved for our military, police, fire and rescue men and women. *Fred has repeated stated that brown nosing is not welcome in the comment section.

      1. William Mougayar

        And I must remind you that according to the the AVC Code of Conduct:5) We avoid aggressive “in your face” language and trolling…You’re better off sticking to the topic and not choosing to point your comments at others, whether it’s me or others.

        1. Richard

          Sure, I wont respond to a ridiculous statement on courage. If it were up to you Fred would have a statute built to honor his daily blogs. Your reply to me lacks any introspection and courage but does require Chutzpah.

          1. William Mougayar

            Courage has many meanings, and not just in the military sense.courageDictionary result for courage/ˈkʌrɪdʒ/nounnoun: couragethe ability to do something that frightens one; bravery.”she called on all her courage to face the ordeal”strength in the face of pain or grief.”he fought his illness with great courage”synonyms:bravery, braveness, courageousness, pluck, pluckiness, valour, fearlessness, intrepidity, intrepidness, nerve, daring, audacity, boldness; dauntlessness, doughtiness, stout-heartedness, hardihood, manfulness, heroism, gallantry; backbone, spine, spirit, spiritedness, mettle, determination, fortitude, resolve, resolution; informalguts, grit, spunk, gutsiness, gameness; informalbottle, ballsiness; informalmoxie, cojones, sand; vulgar slangballs”it takes courage to speak out against the tide of opinion”antonyms:cowardice, timidity

  10. Paul Momoh, PhD

    What!! I took a Augur prediction market position favoring Trump’s impeachment by the end of 2019 based on the confidence of your Trump prediction. Thank goodness it was for 0.5 ETH 🙂 PS: It wasn’t your prediction, I wanted it to be true sooo bad…

  11. Spreek2 .

    You may have done this already, but I think that considering some of the biases that go into these predictions can be helpful.For example, if you lean left, one should be very cautious about making predictions that favor your worldview. (Likewise for those who lean right). Especially if it is an emotionally charged issue. Usually, more accurate predictions can be made by splitting a prediction into a number of component parts (for example, Trump not being president can be split into roughly Chance Mueller releases report in 2019, chance house impeaches given release of report, chance senate convicts, etc.) Often, we have better data and can make more accurate and less politically biased estimates when we do this.For example, personally, I lean left and would like to see Trump removed. However, if I picture myself trying to convince Mitch McConnell to convict him, it starts to feel rather unlikely.Likewise, for market prediction, I think recency bias is a huge thing. We know that recent returns are (at best) a small factor in returns in the immediate future. But I think even knowing that intellectually, it’s easy to make the mistake of overweighting the most recent results. So if the market is way up or way down prior to making a prediction, you should be careful about leaning too much towards trend continuation.

    1. Richard

      if i had a hammer….

    2. fredwilson

      exactly. that is why i wrote this post

  12. Tom Labus

    Learning to be patience is very hard to learn. I’ve talked myself out of a few wins when I should have diverted my attention. But it’s so easy to get spooked.

  13. sigmaalgebra

    Yup, the Internet remembers a LOT. It’s nothing less than a much needed revolution in civilization.E.g., for Trump, I posted my approval for Trump often here early on. I was wrong: (1) He has been much better than I or we had any right to expect. He’s well on his way to the being the best POTUS since Washington. Hildebneest and her tribe, etc. were so bad they could have brought us to political violence in the streets. Trump saved the US a LOT. (2) Hildebeest was much worse than I knew at the time. (3) No way would I have believed that all of ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, NYT, and WaPo would have made nearly all their content just lies, smears, character assassinations, Nazi Minister of Propaganda Dr. J. Goebbels style, IIRC, “If you tell a lie often enough, then people will believe it. Eventually even you will come to believe it.” attacks on Trump and pushing absolutely, total, hysterical, irrational, dangerous, destructive nonsense, deliberately misleading the public, creating divisions and anger, inciting violence, essentially sabotaging the US, attempting to do more damage to the US than ever dreamed of by Tojo, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam, or Ayatollah Kockamamie.In all of this media nonsense, I’m sorry to say, and wish I had a proof with numbers, NYC has become an anti-Trump and really anti-US echo chamber.To defend against this nonsense, all that was needed was the usual: Look for, insist on, good evidence. There wasn’t any. The worst thing the anti-Trump people had that had any credibility was that at some dinner Trump had an extra scoop of ice cream. Really, since the hatred is fully clear, that the evidence is so meager the anti-Trump people have in effect given Trump a unique, all-time champion, world-class clean bill of health.The anti-Trump people have also, via the Internet, the Wayback Machine, etc. forever shown their irrational hysteria.The next steps should be the usual ones, e.g., as on page 29 of How to Be a Good Citizen in 12 Easy Lessons (sorry, my reference is lost) (1) look for the hidden agenda, (2) follow the money, (3) look for who has motive, and, I’ll add two more now, (4) never underestimate the gullibility or power of huge flocks and tribes of convenient idiots, and (5) for information insist on at least common high school term paper writing standards with thorough references to high quality, objective, primary sources.Due to the grace of God and the strength and qualities of Trump, we have a good shot of getting through this. But it was close. Trump is a LOT better than we knew or deserved. Grace of God or something.As I’ve often posted, I don’t want to be wrong: I’m open to good evidence. So far we have two scoops of ice cream. I’m listening but no longer waiting.

    1. SFG

      Whenever I tell someone that I thank God Trump won, they look at me really, really funny. Back in the day there were some pretty long and well thought out NYT articles about Russia collusion. Sounded really fancy and smart. And they were all just a farce of course, but they made the base happy as clams.

    2. Christopher Flint

      This is funny, clearly we are living in a post truth society.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        The self-destructive delusions are ugly things. Over the ages, Darwin has with severity filtered them out, but apparently at each generation there is a fraction of hysterical fools and convenient idiots.Apparently a lot of people don’t bother to push back, but not pushing back is from a little harmful to catastrophic. There is a lot of damage already from the destruction of the competence, objectivity, and, thus, the utility of nearly all the media.Apparently quite broadly the tribal forces are stronger than the respect for rationality.

  14. Dorian Benkoil

    And, the funny thing is, you seldom get hauled on the carpet for incorrect pundit-izing, but you can point to the ones you got right. 😉

    1. fredwilson

      or point to the ones you got wrong

  15. Richard

    Before we can make predictions, we have to accurately recount the past.

  16. sigmaalgebra

    Different answers for economists and engineers!!! :-)!While now engineering can do highly respected work, e.g., much of the best applied and even pure math now is done in engineering, my Ph.D. in new applied math with a lot of pure math prerequisites, was done in an engineering school, in the past an engineer was a person who could do for $1 what any fool could do for $100!Good engineering, e.g., a LOT that is amazing in aerospace and a LOT in electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering, is rock solid.In wildly strong contrast, the applied economists are doing just simple things with poor data and getting quite inaccurate results and predictions. The more theoretical economists are working with imaginary, toy economies on the Planet Faraway that won’t get any closer. E.g., I can claim that I did theoretical mathematical economics research near the Nobel prize level: A result I found and published solved a problem in the famous paper by Arrow, Hurwicz, and Uzawa — Arrow got his prize long ago, and Hurwicz got his a few years ago. While my work solved the problem they gave, I can absolutely, positively, FedEx style, assure you that my work has totally zero, zip, zilch of anything to do with anything real in any real economy, and I’d say the same for the Arrow, etc. paper!Engineers can be respected. About the best can hope for from any economist is that they will do not very much harm to the real economy. Economists should be totally ashamed of themselves.

  17. jason wright

    “The stock market has been on fire and the President is still firmly in charge.”Correlated? Obviously forces inside the market prefer Trump to continue at POTUS rather than Bernie Sanders et al coming in to replace him.

    1. fredwilson

      i don’t believe this country would ever elect someone like Bernie Sanders

      1. jason wright

        There’s no danger of being wrong on that one as the DNC fixers seem determined to stop his name from ever appearing on the ballot paper. The process of democracy is technocratic, and the people will get what they are given it seems. The irony of the hostility toward Trump is that he is the only one to have shown how it is possible to disrupt the political plutocracy, and that is why he is so hated by the established order. Personally i find him to be boorish, but he has shown that the fixers can be overcome. That is the lesson people who want to change your country for the better should learn and act upon. Potentially he has done your country a great service in that narrow regard.I see Bloomberg has decided not to run, but will be spending his millions funding his favoured candidate(s). He seems like a decent man, but his behaviour still highlights the undue influence that money has in your political system, which is broken (as is the UK’s with its unrepresentative’first-past-the post’ voting system).

  18. Pete Griffiths

    “…I need to re-evaluate the assumptions to make sure I am heading in the right direction”Or the wrong direction 🙂

  19. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    If you can make ALL predictions right….You won’t be called with FOUR lettered word(Fred) ….you will be called by the 3-lettered name (GOD) :-).Accepting ” the wrong ” needs a lot of Wisdom and a lot of eagerness to learn more and better.

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