November 2017

From The Editor

By Carlos Fuentes

What do classical thinking, literature, technology and passions have in common? They are the subjects of our current issue of Innovators & Entrepreneurs. But in one way or another they are topics over which many of us ponder, whether entrepreneurs or employees, whether enjoying a stable career or laboring to build one, or taking chances to become successful. Thinking is always a good habit.

Here are a few articles that I believe are worth your time:

  1. “The Passionate Actuary” by Jay M. Jaffe—Emotions have not always been recognized as a key driving force in human affairs. Cherished disciplines such as economics in the last century have, for the most part, ignored the human element while emphasizing superman-like and wonder woman-like rational behavior. Yet, professional and entrepreneurial success is mostly unreachable without emotional self-awareness and a fair dose of passion, particularly when things don’t go the way we want them to—and deviations from expectations occur frequently. To learn about the role that passion can play in your career read Jay’s article.
  2. “The Actuarial Profession in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Process Automation” by Nicholas Yeo—Some of us remember floppy disks and the computers of the 1990s. They were part of the latest technology and allowed actuaries to become more efficient in their work. Fast forward to 2017 and that technology seems obsolete—much more can be accomplished now. What is the way to the future? Nicholas believes Artificial Intelligence is a game changer, but actuarial judgement is here to stay, at least for a while. Will the need for actuarial services decline or will actuaries focus on areas where their human abilities create value?
  3. “Partnering with Product Development via Predictive Modeling” by Mildred Hastbacka—The successful development and commercialization of products, even high-tech products, does not depend so much on technological abilities (because they are not uncommon), but instead on their non-technical counterparts and on the capacity to develop a big-picture plan of which predictive modeling is an important component. Product development (other than in insurance) is an area that actuaries have not explored but that Dr. Hastbacka believes can benefit from actuarial skills. What do you think?
  4. “Classical Thinking and Game Theory, Part II” by Carlos Fuentes—This is the second installment in a series of four articles that were summarized in “A Rigged Game,” published in the July/August 2017 issue of Contingencies. The purpose of the series is to illustrate the “soft” approach of Game Theory using Thucydides’ master work, The History of the Peloponnesian War, and then apply it to analyze the strategic interactions of those who participate in the US health care system, understand the root causes of the problem (cost, access, quality, efficiency), and draw conclusions about plausible mid- and long-term outcomes.
  5. “The Odyssey” by Homer—In this classical masterpiece we encounter Odysseus, a mythological entrepreneur who displays the virtues that are widely associated with success: risk-taking, grit, passion, ability to see the big picture, communication skills and more—he looks like a proto-actuary, doesn’t he? Yet, Homer makes it clear that success is never assured because human beings cannot control Fortuna (“it’s Olympic Zeus himself who hands our fortunes out”). Indeed, the Homeric works narrate in beautiful language histories of success and failure, even tragedy, from which much can be learned.

We are interested in learning what our readers think and what kind of articles they find useful. We are also looking for entrepreneurs and innovators that want to share with our readers the knowledge they have acquired by doing. We welcome good ideas, old and new. Please contact us with your thoughts and don’t miss our February 2018 issue.

Carlos Fuentes, FSA, MAAA, is president at Axiom Actuarial Consulting. He can be reached at