THE UNRULES: MAN, MACHINES AND THE QUEST TO MASTER MARKETS by IGOR TULCHINSKY

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The complete title of Igor Tulchinsky’s book reads: “The Unrules: Man, Machines And The Quest To Master Markets” Reads complicated? You bet it does. The book also has a foreword by Michael Milken. The founder, Chairman and CEO of WorldQuant, Igor Tulchinsky is a multi-faceted personality. His resume reads like chunks of genius running amok. A Masters in Computer Science from the University of Texas in just nine months, an MBA from Wharton, trysts with being a venture capitalist and employment as a scientist at AT & T Bell Laboratories amongst others. All non-believers may please make a bee line to his profile on LinkedIn!

However, it is not just Tulchinsky’s resume that makes for some complex reading. “The Unrules” which doubles up as a quasi-memoir-cum-bytes of investing wisdom-cum-power of computing-cum-selected scientific chronology, at times makes your head spin and reel. Tulchinsky begins his book with the lines, “people who know me well are aware that I am a man of few words. In fact, I joke that you only have so many words in life, and when you use them up, you die.” Perusing some passages in this book, makes the reader firstly realise, as to why the author is a man of few words and secondly, why it is preferable that he remain that way! At times genius struggles to make itself understood in language that is simple and in concepts that are fundamental.

“The Unrules” is a contrasting mix of enthusiasm and exasperation. While the parts dealing with Tulchinky’s emigration from Russia to the United States make for some inspiring reading, his holding forth on the employ and importance of algorithms and architectures in the world of finance leaves one dizzy with confusion. Expounding on esoteric concepts such as the von Neumann architecture and the Black Scholes Model, Tulchinsky succeeds in losing all but the most technologically savvy and mathematically inclined ‘quants’ who also happened to be disguised as readers!

My personal pet-peeve is undoubtedly the Chapter entitled, “Waves”. Consider the following sentences from this Chapter: “for many years waves in water were seen as a linear phenomenon consisting of the combination of sinusoidal elements. “Sinusoidal” is derived from the word ‘sine’, which is a serpentine curve, often repeated like those pond ripples. In this context linear means, if you have two waves, each with different attributes (wavelength, frequency, velocity, amplitude at the peak), and you combine them, you simply add the separate heights of the predecessor waves to calculate the height of the resulting wave.” P.H.E.W!

Reading this book is like alternating between role playing a mendicant who is serenely stoned and a hardworking under privileged youth who in spite of all his travails is defiant in the conviction that the world is his Oyster. While tidbits of wisdom such as “Blame no one else. Minimize regrets”;Don’t compromise. Play to your strengths.”; and “Obstacles are information” suffuse hope and a sense of anticipation, these sporadic pieces are obfuscated by and hidden in between an ocean of esoterica!

“The Unrules” is thus a queer combination of Albert Einstein and Don Quixote. While the Don Quixote bits spur you into charging ahead and taking on the world, regardless of its threatening windmills, the Einsteinian bits are alas lost in a relentless surge of high and powerful waves!

Maybe Mr. Tulchinsky should start speaking more!

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