Saturday, May 28, 2005

Summer Reading - Fischer Black

Fischer Black is undoubtedly one of the "inventors" of modern finance. His option pricing formula revolutionalized both academic and practitioner finance. Thanks to Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, I now have a new book to read this summer: Fischer Black and the Revolutionary Idea of Finance, by Perry Mehrling. This passage supplied by Tyler describes Black as possibly having a high-functioning case of Asperger's Syndrome:

He did almost all of his work in an outlining program called ThinkTank, which he used as a kind of external associative memory to supplement his own. Everything he read, every conversation he had, every thought that occurred, everything got summarized and added to the data base that swelled eventually to 20 million bytes organized in 2000 alphabetical files...Reading, discussion and thinking that Fischer did outside the office was recorded on slips to paper to be entered into the database later. Reading, discussion, and thinking that took place inside the office was recorded directly. While he was on the phone, he was typing. While he was talking to you in person, he was typing. Sometimes he even typed while he was interviewing a prospective job candidate, looking at the screen not the candidate.
I've often thought that the most productive academics have what I call "functionial adaptive autism". They seem to have the ability to tune out the outside world for hours at a time when working on a problem. Unfortunately, for some, they find it hard to tune back in. Having read the symptoms of Asperger's, that also seems to fit.

The book's not out in print yet, but I'll pre-order it. Maybe it'll be out before I'm done with Freakonomics (I just got my copy).

Thanks for the tip, Tyler.

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