Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas

Lebanese-American Essayist, Scholar, Statistician, Former Trader and Risk Analyst, Author of "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable"

Author Quotes

To become a successful philosopher king, it is much better to start as a king than as a philosopher.

Until recent history, the central state represented about 5 percent of the economy.

We can also see from the turkey story the mother of all harmful mistakes: mistaking absence of evidence (of harm) for evidence of absence,

We have this culture of financialization. People think they need to make money with their savings rather with their own business. So you end up with dentists who are more traders than dentists. A dentist should drill teeth and use whatever he does in the stock market for entertainment.

We should reward people, not ridicule them, for thinking the impossible.

What kills me makes others stronger,

When we want to do something while unconsciously certain to fail, we seek advice so we can blame someone else for the failure.

Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire. Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind. This summarizes this author?s non-meek attitude to randomness and uncertainty.

You can imagine how distraught I feel when I hear about the glorified heroism-free middle class values, which, thanks to globalization and the Internet, have spread to any place easily reached by British Air, enshrining the usual opiates of the deified classes: hard work for a bank or a tobacco company, diligent newspaper reading, obedience to most, but not all, traffic laws, captivity in some corporate structure, dependence on the opinion of a boss (with one?s job records filed in the personnel department), good legal compliance, reliance on stock market investments, tropical vacations, and a suburban life (under some mortgage) with a nice-looking dog and Saturday night wine tasting.

You never win an argument until they attack your person.

To miss a train, but if pursued would be painful.

Using leverage to cure the problems of too much leverage is not homeopathy, it is denial. The debt crisis is not a temporary problem, it is a structural one. We need rehab.

We can control a function of x, f(x), even if x remains vastly beyond our understanding.

We humans are not just a superficial race (this may be curable to some extent); we are a very unfair one.

we tend to think that innovation comes from bureaucratic funding, through planning, or by putting people through a Harvard Business School class by one Highly Decorated Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (who never innovated anything) or hiring a consultant (who never innovated anything). This is a fallacy?note for now the disproportionate contribution of uneducated technicians and entrepreneurs to various technological leaps, from the Industrial Revolution to the emergence of Silicon Valley, and you will see what I mean.

What made medicine fool people for so long was that its successes were prominently displayed and its mistakes (literally) buried.

When you ask people what is the opposite of fragile, they mostly answer something that is resilient or unbreakable ? an unbreakable package would be robust. However, the opposite of fragile is something that actually gains from disorder. In the book, I classify things into fragile, robust or anti-fragile. But it doesn?t stop at ?anti-fragile?. We also have ?inverse heroes.?

Wind extinguishes a candle, but energizes a fire.

You can tell how poor someone feels by the number of times he references money in his conversation.

You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside of it, if you do so by choice.

To see how transfer of anti-fragility works, consider two scenarios, in which the market does the same thing on average but following different paths. Path 1: market goes up 50 percent, then goes back down to erase all gains. Path 2: market does not move at all. Visibly Path 1, the more volatile, is more profitable to the managers, who can cash in their stock options. So the more jagged the route, the better it is for them. And of course society?here the retirees?has the exact opposite payoff since they finance bankers and chief executives. Retirees get less upside than downside. Society pays for the losses of the bankers, but gets no bonuses from them. If you don?t see this transfer of anti-fragility as theft, you certainly have a problem. What is worse, this system is called incentive-based and supposed to correspond to capitalism. Supposedly managers? interests are aligned with those of the shareholders. What incentive? There is upside and no downside, no disincentive at all.

Using the confirmation bias, these people will tell you that religion was horrible for mankind by counting deaths from the Inquisition and various religious wars. But they will not show you how many people were killed by nationalism, social science, and political theory under Stalinism or during the Vietnam War.

We can discuss this point from different angles. Experts call one manifestation of such denigration of history historical determinism. In a nutshell we think that we would know when history is made; we believe that people who, say, witnessed the stock market crash of 1929 knew then that they lived an acute historical event and that, should these events repeat themselves, they too would know about such facts. Life for us is made to resemble an adventure movie, as we know ahead of time that something big is about to happen. It is hard to imagine that people who witnessed history did not know at the time how important the moment was. Somehow all respect we may have for history does not translate well into our treatment of the present.

We humans are the victims of an asymmetry in the perception of random events. We attribute our successes to our skills, and our failures to external events outside our control, namely to randomness.

We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property to be protected and defended. It is an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order...we take what we know a little too seriously.

Author Picture
First Name
Nassim Nicholas
Last Name
Birth Date

Lebanese-American Essayist, Scholar, Statistician, Former Trader and Risk Analyst, Author of "The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable"