Increase Your Luck Surface Area: Advice For Young Actuaries

Photo by Lesya Kikh from Pexels

We have ever-changing answers to the perennial “what do you want to be” question. When I was very young, I wanted to be a pilot, traversing the world in jumbo jets. In my early teens, I found an affinity for computers and thought that I would very much like to be a tech entrepreneur.

A few years later, I approached the end of secondary school and was in dire need of a realistic career plan. I picked up the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by chance, which led to an interest in investments. I read more investments-related books and came across something about Warren Buffett, the legendary investor, considering becoming an actuary. Boom – I had my answer – I was to be an actuary.

Having spent almost 15 years in the profession – studying for actuarial exams, training to become an actuary, and working as a qualified actuary – I still don’t have all the answers. But I do have one advice for young actuaries – do everything you can to increase your luck surface area.

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Bitcoin-denominated Life Insurance: Exclusive Interview with Zachary Townsend

Bitcoin under an umbrella symbolising protection
BTC-denominated life protection, created using Bing Image Creator

When I first heard of Bitcoin, I dismissed it like most people. I mean, what is this “magic internet money” that needs to be “mined” using electricity? It was not an intuitive concept to wrap my head around. Reading the Bitcoin white paper was an eye-opener. It turns out there’s no magic or witchcraft; Bitcoin is the first application of blockchain – a distributed, decentralised ledger. I’ve since gone deep down the rabbit hole and have written and spoken about the use cases of blockchain.

Bitcoin has come a long way since its genesis block on 3 January 2009. Bitcoin’s longevity and resilience has reinforced the belief that it will probably persist for years to come. One of Bitcoin’s most prominent proponents, Balaji Srinivasan, believes that Bitcoin is a viable escape hatch from a collapsing fiat system.

Time will tell whether Balaji is right.

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Thriving as an Actuary in the Age of Generative AI

Successful actuaries in a generative AI world. Show a large group of actuaries from an aerial view. They are from a diverse background of gender and race. Photorealistic with bokeh effect.
Standing out, created using Bing Image Creator

This blog post was first published in the June 2023 edition of The Actuary magazine. It’s also part of an ongoing series on how I use AI interns to improve my life. In this case, I’ve used ChatGPT for writing inspiration. The complete prompts and responses are at the bottom of the page.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) techniques have been much hyped over the years. Beyond creating alternatives to generalised linear model (GLM), they have not come close to revolutionising actuarial work. Adoption of AI and ML techniques by the profession has been hampered by a lack of quality data and poor data infrastructure. Worse still, premature guardrails were imposed with good but misguided intentions – overzealous guidelines on AI safety and ethics were not commensurate with the primitive capabilities of the AI models in use.

In recent months, there have been impressive breakthroughs in AI models. You would have heard about ChatGPT and its ilk by now. These generative AI systems are unlike any that has come before – not only do they understand natural language (ChatGPT tells me it understands over 100 languages), they generate text, software code, and images with human-like flair and creativity.

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The Metaverse and Me

Actuary wearing VR goggles, created using Midjourney

This blog post was first published in the October 2022 edition of The Actuary magazine.

The term “metaverse” first appeared in the science fiction novel, Snow Crash. In Neal Stephenson’s seminal novel published in 1992, the metaverse is a “computer-rendered imaginary place” that users access by wearing “goggles that wrap halfway around the head”. What was once a niche nerdy term has exploded into mainstream consciousness. Hitherto the domain of science fiction, the metaverse is slowly becoming a reality.

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A Decentralised Future: What Does it Mean for Actuarial Work?

Bali, a popular remote working location

This blog post was first published in the July 2021 edition of The Actuary magazine. I wrote it as a call to arms for actuaries to learn about blockchain, and to start building on decentralised networks. Further reading and learning resources are at the bottom of the post.

The actuarial profession has historically thrived in the insurance and risk management industries. While many of us have moved successfully to “non-traditional” actuarial areas, the profession has more to do to become the “revolutionary” elite Elon Musk hoped for when he tweeted about hiring actuaries to develop Tesla’s insurance proposition. The imminent arrival of fully autonomous vehicles is just one of a number of technological megatrends which are poised to change our industry and how we work.

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