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Home » A Rare Interview With the Mathematician Who Cracked Wall Street: Jim Simons at TED (Full Transcript)

A Rare Interview With the Mathematician Who Cracked Wall Street: Jim Simons at TED (Full Transcript)

Jim Simons

Full text of  A Rare Interview With the Mathematician Who Cracked Wall Street: Jim Simons at TED Talks

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TRANSCRIPT: 

Chris Anderson: You were something of a mathematical phenom. You had already taught at Harvard and MIT at a young age. And then the NSA came calling. What was that about?

Jim Simons: Well the NSA — that’s the National Security Agency — they didn’t exactly come calling. They had an operation at Princeton, where they hired mathematicians to attack secret codes and stuff like that. And I knew that existed. And they had a very good policy, because you could do half your time at your own mathematics, and at least half your time working on their stuff. And they paid a lot. So that was an irresistible pull. So, I went there.

Chris Anderson: So you were a code-cracker.

Jim Simons: I was.

Chris Anderson: Until you got fired.

Jim Simons: Well, I did get fired. Yes.

Chris Anderson: How come?

Jim Simons: Well, how come? I got fired because, well, the Vietnam War was on, and the boss of bosses in my organization was a big fan of the war and wrote a New York Times article, a magazine section cover story, about how we would win in Vietnam. And I didn’t like that war, I thought it was stupid. And I wrote a letter to the Times, which they published, saying not everyone who works for Maxwell Taylor, if anyone remembers that name, agrees with his views. And I gave my own views…

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