Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

Machine Learning

The Future Is Bumpy: High-Tech Hedge Fund Hits Limits of Robot Stock Picking by Bradley Hope and Juliet Chang (WSJ)

A skeptical take on the viability of using machine learning to pick stocks that outperform; unlike algorithms at quant funds written by humans, only the machine knows why it’s doing what it does. [Link; paywall]

AlphaZero AI beats champion chess program after teaching itself in four hours by Samuel Gibbs (The Guardian)

While machine learning may not be working well in financial markets yet, it’s done extremely well in more bounded environments like the world of chess. [Link]

Crypto Chronicles

Crypto money-laundering bust alert [siren] by Alexandra Scaggs (FTAV)

The DoJ unsealed an indictment this week against a 27 year old long Island woman who used loans, credit cards, and crpotcurrency to attempt to fund ISIS. [Link; registration required]

EU agrees clampdown on bitcoin platforms to tackle money laundering by Francesco Guarascio (Reuters)

Following the US action earlier this week, EU nations and parliamentarians reached a deal to make money laundering via the blockchain harder. [Link]

Retail Commodity Transactions Involving Virtual Currency by Commodity Futures Trading Commission (Federal Register)

In a proposed rulemaking that could make the operation of some bitcoin exchanges subject to regulatory oversight, the CFTC takes steps to lay down ground rules for transactions in crypto. [Link; 23 page PDF]

Bitcoin Made This Man (Briefly) One of the Richest People in America by James Mackintosh (WSJ)

CEO of Crypto Co (CRCW) was a billionaire on paper when illiquidity and the crypto craze drove the pinksheets stock to nearly $4 billion overnight. [Link; paywall]

Don’t get caught up in blockchain hype by Robbie Mitchell (Apnic)

A good rundown of what blockchain is actually useful for, in plain English. The list is much shorter than you might think based on all of the hype. [Link]

Tech Company Blog Posts

AIM will be discontinued on December 15, 2017 (AOL)

Venerable and ubiquitous messaging application AOL Instant Messenger is being discontinued, the end of an era for chat apps. [Link]

Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us? by David Ginsberg and Moira Burke (Facebook)

In a major move, Facebook has admitted that some research shows negative effects of social media. [Link]


Tax “reform” and America’s transfer union by Matthew C. Klein (FTAV)

Some interesting data work on the effective tax rates of states, and the effective subsidies granted to state and local governments, as well as the distribution of federal employment expenditures. [Link; registration required]

Natural Disasters

Sin Luz: Life Without Power (WaPo)

A massive audio-visual assessment of the ongoing struggles for Puerto Rico, which is still undergoing the longest and largest blackout in American history. [Link; auto-playing video]


Alphabet wants to deliver Internet access via laser beams by Ron Amadeo (ArsTechnica)

Alphabet’s X Lab has signed an agreement with the state government of Andhra Pradesh in India to provide internet services via laser. [Link]


Colorized Math Equations by Kalid Azad (Better Explained)

An awesome way to think about mathematical concepts, making instruction and deduction much more intuitive. [Link]


A Premium for Velveeta? by Jeff Wilson (Bloomberg)

Bad news for processed cheese fiends: the key input (barrel cheese) trades at a 25 cent per pound premium over the traditional stuff on the CME futures markets. [Link]

Have a great Sunday!

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