What the Fox Knows

March 2, 2016

Of all my failings, the one that consciously niggles at me the most is my lack of advanced skills with statistics. This is because as somebody who likes the occasional bet, an author of several Betfair bots and a huge fan of horse racingMy fan of racing began as a child with the Grand National, but has since escalated to the point I take time off work for Cheltenham Festival , I feel my life would be enhanced greatly by a better ability to deal with statistics more complex than that taught to me at school.

As an incompetent sofa statistics geek, I am a considerable fan of Nate Silver and the excellent FiveThirtyEight.com site. In 2014, Nate wrote a post entitled What the Fox Knows in which he explains the position he and his site take towards their work:

Our logo depicts a fox as an allusion to a phrase originally attributed to the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” We take a pluralistic approach and we hope to contribute to your understanding of the news in a variety of ways.

This inspired my own little fox logo up there in the top left - the quote from Archilochus speaks to me about my World view and what I aspire to be as a human.

When I started writing here again a year ago I really wasn’t sure what I’d put here, and frequently I find myself struggling to find a topic. Truth be told, over the last year I’ve done most of my writing on Reddit, HackerNews and to my shame, even Facebook. In so doing, I’ve been thinking about what I know, what I care about, and it’s started to settle.

I am now working on projects and studies that combine several of my obsessions.

Coding is not just my job. It has taught me to think, it is my form of meditation, and it allows me to express myself in interesting ways.

Statistics and probability have been a long standing interest of mine. I want to get better at understanding both subjects, and the way I do that is by getting better at explaining them.

Betting occupies a chunk of my downtime, more than most. I have the evidence to show I make more than I lose, consistently, over many years. When I talk about betting people assume I am interested in gambling on anything going, or trying to beat a casino’s house edge. I’m not - I am a value bettor who looks to betting small amounts in order to sharpen my analysis skills or for fun, and everything I do is underpinned by ‘value’ and Kelly criterion staking. I hate casinos. I hate greyhounds. I hate evening racing. I know accumulators are harmful. I would campaign to have FBOTs removed from every bookmaker’s office in the country. I desperately want to condense everything I know about this topic into something that can help others.

Political analysis and economic/demographic/political data has been a frequent topic of discussion for me. That needs to be here, but I am no longer interested in simply producing political rhetoric, as I once was.

The rise of AI and Deep Learning fascinates me, especially as we combine these technologies with data from the “Internet of Things” and the ideas of a world-wide robot become almost plausible. How can anybody not be interested in that right now, here in 2016?

I also think a huge topic of interest for me in coming years will revolved around automation of work and the political and economic impacts of work becoming optional - universal basic income is an idea whose time is coming.

Other than ensuring what I write here is touching one or more of the above, I am not going to be very selective about what I drop here. I plan to improve my maths education, I plan to scour forums and grab notes and pull them all here. This site and it’s underlying git repository is going to be a sort of sprawling scrapbook of things I want to pull together, and I will share it in an attempt to focus my efforts and maybe something will be of interest to others.

What the Fox Knows - March 2, 2016 - Paul Robinson