About me

  • I’m Conor. I live in Chicago and work in credit risk / data analytics. The thing I’m most interested in is how markets and incentives work, and how financial concepts like insurance, pricing, or risk apply to everyday life. I also spend a(n un)reasonably large amount of time thinking about politics and baseball. You can also find me online at Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Some (bigger) questions I’m interested in (any thoughts always appreciated!):

  • How can we encourage more risk-taking? People are often very uncomfortable taking risks. Big companies often get all the attention, but entrepreneurship and innovation are what drive progress forward. Rates of entrepreneurship are in a decline, and it seems that ambitious young people increasingly take the ‘safe’ path into consulting or other comfortable jobs instead of doing their own thing. What’s the best way to encourage the opposite?
  •  How do we empower workers at an individual level? Since the 1970s, labor’s share of income has been falling, and income inequality has been rising. It seems like a lot of proposed solutions involve more power to unions, but that strikes me as a fairly collective answer – it empowers ‘labor,’ by redistributing bargaining power from the company to the collective laborers, but doesn’t necessarily empower individual workers themselves. Is there a better way to do that? 
  • What should we do about migration? Migration has declined pretty significantly in the United States over the past few decades. This seems bad for a number of reasons – for society, for the economy, and also for individuals themselves. What’s the best way to fix this? 
  • What’s going on with social trust? Society is increasingly polarized, and it seems that a decline in social trust is one of the biggest causes to blame. How do we fix this? 
  • How do people change their minds? I think being thoughtful and flexible is important, but it’s still pretty common for arguments to devolve into both parties becoming more stubborn and entrenched in their beliefs and no progress is made. It doesn’t seem like “give them more information” is the right answer – the best informed voters, for example, are often the most polarized. What’s the right way to help people engage issues more thoughtfully and openly? 
Things I’ve changed my mind about:
I think being willing to change your mind is important, and documenting things you were wrong about / have revised your views on is useful. With that in mind, here are some things I’ve changed my view on. 
  •  The value of community, social cohesion and ‘third places’ – I used to be a pretty rabid individualist / libertarian, and have slowly come around to the idea that community is very important. A place being a ‘high trust society’ seems pretty important in making a place somewhere nice to live, and community/social ties are important for that. 
  • The value of grid-based layouts in cities – I love Chicago and being able to navigate the city easily, but the magic of places like London or Boston where twisty roads result in random parks/plazas is really cool to me. 
  • In gambling, I used to be very convinced about the idea that bookmakers don’t try to predict the actual outcome of the game, they just try to get 50-50 action on every bet. I’ve since come around on this pretty hard, both given some academic evidence and some evidence earned via other channels.  
  • Owning a dog adds far more positive value to my life than I expected.