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

You want to favor systems that benefit from error, disorder, variability and things like that. You want to favor these systems and unfortunately, when - there's something I call the Soviet Illusion. The more the government becomes intrusive, the more things have to follow a script, and it can't handle this kind of system.

To understand the future, you do not need techno-autistic jargon, obsession with killer apps, these sort of things. You just need the following: some respect for the past, some curiosity about the historical record, a hunger for the wisdom of the elders, and a grasp of the notion of heuristics, these often unwritten rules of thumb that are so determining of survival. In other words, you will be forced to give weight to things that have been around, things that have survived.

Verbal threat is genuine impotence certificate.

We didn?t get where we are thanks to the sissy notion of resilience.

We know from chaos theory that even if you had a perfect model of the world, you'd need infinite precision in order to predict future events. With sociopolitical or economic phenomena, we don't have anything like that.

Weak act according to their needs, the stronger their obligations.

What should we control? As a rule, intervening to limit size (of companies, airports, or sources of pollution), concentration, and speed are beneficial in reducing Black Swan risks.

When you don?t have debt you don?t care about your reputation in economics circles?and somehow it is only when you don?t care about your reputation that you tend to have a good one. Just

With few exceptions, those who dress outrageously are robust or even anti-fragile in reputation; those clean-shaven types who dress in suits and ties are fragile to information about them.

You exist if and only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification and, above all, outside the dictatorship of someone else's narrative.

You will be civilized on the day you can spend a long period doing nothing, learning nothing, and improving nothing, without feeling the slightest amount of guilt.

Too much success is the enemy, too much failure is demoralizing.

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.

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Nassim Nicholas
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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"