Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas
Taleb
1960

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

Author Quotes

Veteran trader Marty O?Connell calls this the firehouse effect. He had observed that firemen with much downtime who talk to each other for too long come to agree on many things that an outside, impartial observer would find ludicrous (they develop political ideas that are very similar). Psychologists give it a fancier name, but my friend Marty has no training in behavioral sciences.

We discussed this dire problem with education and illusions of academic contribution, with Ivy League universities becoming in the eyes of the new Asian and U.S. upper class a status luxury good. Harvard is like a Vuitton bag or a Cartier watch. It is a huge drag on the middle-class parents who have been plowing an increased share of their savings into these institutions, transferring their money to administrators, real estate developers, professors, and other agents. In the United States, we have a buildup of student loans that automatically transfer to these rent extractors. In a way it is no different from racketeering: one needs a decent university name to get ahead in life; but we know that collectively society doesn?t appear to advance with organized education.

We laugh at others and we don't realize that someone will be just as justified in laughing at us on some not too remote day.

Weak men act to satisfy their needs, stronger men their duties.

What they call "play" (gym, travel, sports) looks like work.

When you walk the walk, whether successful or not, you feel more indifferent and robust to people's opinion, freer, more real.

Wittgenstein's ruler: Unless you have confidence in the ruler's reliability, if you use a ruler to measure a table you may also be using the table to measure the ruler.

You find peace by coming to terms with what you don?t know.

You will get the most attention from those who hate you. No friend, no admirer and no partner will flatter you with as much curiosity.

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 draw people to focus on noise rather than the signal.

We are built to be dupes for theories. But theories come and go; experience stays. Explanations

We do not need to be rational and scientific when it comes to the details of our daily life?only in those that can harm us and threaten our survival. Modern life seems to invite us to do the exact opposite; become extremely realistic and intellectual when it comes to such matters as religion and personal behavior, yet as irrational as possible when it comes to matters ruled by randomness (say, portfolio or real estate investments). I have encountered colleagues, rational, no-nonsense people, who do not understand why I cherish the poetry of Baudelaire and Saint-John Perse or obscure (and often impenetrable) writers like Elias Canetti, J. L. Borges, or Walter Benjamin. Yet they get sucked into listening to the analyses of a television guru, or into buying the stock of a company they know absolutely nothing about, based on tips by neighbors who drive expensive cars.

We learn the most from fools... yet we pay them back with the worst ingratitude.

Wealth does not count so much into one?s well-being as the route one uses to get to it.

What they call philosophy I call literature; what they call literature I call journalism; what they call journalism I call gossip; and what they call gossip I call (generously) voyeurism.

When you write, you don't have the social constraints of having people in front of you, so you talk about abstract matters.

Work destroys your soul by stealthily invading your brain during the hours not officially spent working; be selective about professions.

You get pseudo-order when you seek order; you only get a measure of order and control when you embrace randomness.

Your reputation is harmed the most by what you say to defend it.

Trial and error is freedom.

We are faulty and there is no need to bother trying to correct our flaws. We are so defective and so mismatched to our environment that we can just work around these flaws. I

We do not spontaneously learn that we don't learn that we don't learn. The problem lies in the structure of our minds: we don't learn rules, just facts, and only facts. Metarules (such as the rule that we have a tendency to not learn rules) we don't seem to be good at getting. We scorn the abstract; we scorn it with passion.

We live to produce information, or improve on it. Nietzsche had the Latin pun aut liberi, aut libri?either children or books, both information that caries through the centuries?I am here to die a heroic death for the sake of the collective, to produce offspring (and prepare them for life and provide for them), or eventually, books, ?my information, that is, my genes, the anti-fragile in me, should be the ones seeking immortality, not me. Then say goodbye, have a nice funeral in St. Sergius (Mar Sarkis) in Amioun, and, as the French say, place aux autres?make room for others (p. 370-371).

Wear your best for your execution and stand dignified. Your last recourse against randomness is how you act - if you can't control outcomes, you can control the elegance of your behaviour. You will always have the last word.

What we do today has nothing to do with capitalism or socialism. It is a crony type of system that transfers money to the coffers of bureaucrats. The largest ?fragilizer? of society is a lack of skin in the game. If you are mayor of a small town, you are penalized for your mistakes because you are made accountable when you go to church. But we are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes ? bureaucrats, bankers, and academics with too much power. They game the system while citizens pay the price. I want the entrepreneur to be respected, not the CEO of a company who has all the upsides and none of the downsides.

Author Picture
First Name
Nassim Nicholas
Last Name
Taleb
Birth Date
1960
Bio

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