Forecasting, Islamic State, Inversions, Learning, Yahoo!

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

The Conventional Wisdom On Oil Is Always Wrong

Ben Casselman | Five Thirty Eight | 18th December 2014

Don't trust any forecast for oil production or oil prices, however closely reasoned and however persuasive. There are thousands of known variables which influence the price, any number of unknown variables, and infinite complexity in their interactions. "That’s the thing about the conventional wisdom: It always makes sense at the time. It’s only later that we can see all the reasons it was wrong" (1,650 words)

The Race To Save Peter Kassig

Shiv Malik et al | Guardian | 18th December 2014

Gripping account of back-channel manoeuvring to save Islamic State hostage Peter Kassig, beheaded on November 16th. American lawyer Stanley Cohen urged Jordanian cleric Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi to lean on his former pupil, Turki al-Binali, Islamic State's chief scholar. The plan failed when Jordanian police arrested Maqdisi. There again, had it succeeded, it might have led to rapprochement between IS and Al-Qaeda (5,980 words)

The Greatest Tax Story Ever Told

Zachary R. Mider | Business Week | 18th December 2014

Wall Street lawyer John Carroll probably did more damage to US tax revenues than any other individual in history by inventing the "inversion", whereby a US corporation moves its headquarters overseas and avoids US taxes. “There was a loophole in the law, and we capitalized on it legitimately”. He also co-invented the currency swap. The partners at his law firm wrote an operetta in his honour (2,160 words)

How You Know

Paul Graham | 15th December 2014

You can read a great book at different times in your life, and learn different things from it — not because the book has changed, but because you have changed, your mind has changed. And not only books: "As technologies for recording and playing back your life improve, it may become common for people to relive experiences without any goal in mind, simply to learn from them again as one might when rereading a book" (633 words)

Marissa Mayer, What Happened?

Nicholas Carlson | New York Times | 17th December 2014 | Metered paywall

How Yahoo went from a company worth $128 billion to a company worth nothing at all. It was floundering before Marissa Mayer took charge, but she steered it right on to the rocks. She neglected the mature business, bought dozens of start-ups, hired and fired badly, alienated employees, combined hyperactivity with disorganisation — not because she had a strategy, but in the hope of finding one, which she didn't (7,300 words)

Video of the day: Surface Detail

What to expect: Fractal landscapes generated by 3D rendering (4')

Thought for the day

I can't think of a single instance where anecdotal evidence was inaccurate
Merlin Mann (

Join 150,000+ curious readers who grow with us every day

No spam. No nonsense. Unsubscribe anytime.

Great! Check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription
Please enter a valid email address!
You've successfully subscribed to The Browser
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in
Could not sign in! Login link expired. Click here to retry
Cookies must be enabled in your browser to sign in