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

Writing is the art of repeating oneself without anyone noticing.

You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.

True, the Web produces acute concentration. A large number of users visit just a few sites, such as Google, which, at the time of this writing, has total market dominance. At no time in history has a company grown so dominant so quickly?Google can service people from Nicaragua to southwestern Mongolia to the American West Coast, without having to worry about phone operators, shipping, delivery, and manufacturing. This is the ultimate winner-take-all case study. People forget, though, that before Google, Alta Vista dominated the search-engine market. I am prepared to revise the Google metaphor by replacing it with a new name for future editions of this book.

We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions.

We flipped a coin to see who was going to pay for the meal. I lost and paid. He was about to thank me when he abruptly stopped and said that he paid for half of it probabilistically.

We practitioners and quants aren?t too fazed by remarks on the part of academics?it would be like prostitutes listening to technical commentary by nuns.

What fools call "wasting time" is most often the best investment.

When an investor focuses on short-term investments, he or she is observing the variability of the portfolio, not the returns - in short, being fooled by randomness.

While in theory randomness is an intrinsic property, in practice, randomness is incomplete information.

Yet in spite of the visibility of the counterevidence, and the wisdom you can pick up free of charge from the ancients (or grandmothers), moderns try today to create inventions from situations of comfort, safety, and predictability instead of accepting the notion that necessity really is the mother of invention.

You know you have influence when people start noticing your absence more than the presence of others.

Try the following experiment. Go to the airport and ask travelers en route to some remote destination how much they would pay for an insurance policy paying, say, a million tugrits (the currency of Mongolia) if they died during the trip (for any reason).Then ask another collection of travelers how much they would pay for insurance that pays the same in the event of death from a terrorist act (and only a terrorist act). Guess which one would command a higher price? Odds are that people would rather pay for the second policy (although the former includes death from terrorism). The psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky figured this out several decades ago.

We are robust when errors in the representation of the unknown and understanding of random effects do not lead to adverse outcomes ?fragile otherwise.

We glorify those who left their names in history books at the expense of those contributors about whom our books are silent. We humans are not just a superficial race - we are a very unfair one.

We said that mere judgment would probably suffice in a primitive society. It is easy for a society to live without mathematics?

What he likes most about proprietary trading is that it requires considerably less time than other high-paying professions; in other words it is perfectly compatible with his non-middle-class work ethic. Trading forces someone to think hard; those who merely work hard generally lose their focus and intellectual energy. In addition, they end up drowning in randomness; work ethics, Nero believes, draw people to focus on noise rather than the signal

When conflicted between two choices, take neither.

While the meetings included traders, that is, people who are judged on their numerical performance, it was mostly a forum for salespeople (people capable of charming customers), and the category of entertainers called Wall Street economists or strategists, who make pronouncements on the fate of the markets, but do not engage in any form of risk taking, thus having their success dependent on rhetoric rather than actually testable facts.

Yet simplicity has been difficult to implement in modern life because it is against the spirit of a certain brand of people who seek sophistication so they can justify their profession. Less is more and usually more effective.

You may never know what type of person someone is unless they are given opportunities to violate moral or ethical codes.

Two weekends in Philadelphia are not twice as pleasant as a single one?I?ve tried.

We are social animals; hell is other people.

We grossly overestimate the length of the effect of misfortune on our lives. You think that the loss of your fortune or current position will be devastating, but you are probably wrong. More likely, you will adapt to anything, as you probably did after past misfortunes. You may feel a sting, but it will not be as bad as you expect. This kind of mis-prediction may have a purpose: to motivate us to perform important acts (like buying new cars or getting rich) and to prevent us from taking certain unnecessary risks. And it is part of a more general problem: we humans are supposed to fool ourselves a little bit here and there. According to Trivers?s theory of self-deception, this is supposed to orient us favorably toward the future. But self-deception is not a desirable feature outside of its natural domain. It prevents us from taking some unnecessary risks?but we saw in Chapter 6 how it does not as readily cover a spate of modern risks that we do not fear because they are not vivid, such as investment risks, environmental dangers, or long-term security.

We scorn the abstract; we scorn it with passion.

What I learned on my own I still remember

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