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

Procrastination is the soul rebelling against entrapment.

Redundancy is ambiguous because it seems like a waste if nothing unusual happens. Except that something unusual happens-usually .

Silent evidence pervades everything connected to the notion of history. By history, I don't mean just those learned-but-dull books in the history section (with Renaissance paintings on their cover to attract buyers). History, I will repeat, is any succession of events seen with the effect of posteriority. This bias extends to the ascription of factors in the success of ideas and religions, to the illusion of skill in many professions, to success in artistic occupations, to the nature versus nurture debate, to mistakes in using evidence in the court of law, to illusions about the logic of history--and of course, most severely, in our perception of the nature of extreme events.

Social science means inventing a certain brand of human we can understand.

Success brings an asymmetry: you now have a lot more to lose than to gain. You are hence fragile.

The anti-fragile loves randomness and uncertainty, which also means?crucially?a love of errors, a certain class of errors. Anti-fragility has a singular property of allowing us to deal with the unknown, to do things without understanding them?and do them well. Let me be more aggressive: we are largely better at doing than we are at thinking, thanks to anti-fragility. I?d rather be dumb and anti-fragile than extremely smart and fragile, any time.

The brilliant British mathematician, eccentric, and computer pioneer Alan Turing came up with the following test: A computer can be said to be intelligent if it can (on average) fool a human into mistaking it for another human. The converse should be true. A human can be said to be unintelligent if we can replicate his speech by a computer, which we know is unintelligent, and fool a human into believing that it was written by a human. Can one produce a piece of work that can be largely mistaken for Derrida entirely randomly?

The engineer and historian of engineering Henry Petroski presents a very elegant point. Had the Titanic not had that famous accident, as fatal as it was, we would have kept building larger and larger ocean liners and the next disaster would have been even more tragic. So the people who perished were sacrificed for the greater good; they unarguably saved more lives than were lost. The story of the Titanic illustrates the difference between gains for the system and harm to some of its individual parts.

The hippocampus is the structure where memory is supposedly controlled. It is the most plastic part of the brain; it is also the part that is assumed to absorb all the damage from repeated insults like the chronic stress we experience daily from small doses of negative feelings?as opposed to the invigorating good stress of the tiger popping up occasionally in your living room. You can rationalize all you want; the hippocampus takes the insult of chronic stress seriously, incurring irreversible atrophy. Contrary to popular belief, these small, seemingly harmless stressors do not strengthen you; they can amputate part of yourself.

The only thing that Lady Luck is not driven; it is your behavior.

The rationalist imagines an imbecile-free society; the empiricist and imbecile-proof one, or even better, a rationalist-proof one.

The traits I respect are erudition and the courage to stand up when half-men are afraid for their reputation. Any idiot can be intelligent.

There are systems that use failure as fuel for improvement, where the cost of failure is small.

They agree that chess training only improves chess skills but disagree that classroom training (almost) only improves classroom skills.

This is the central illusion in life: that randomness is risky, that it is a bad thing?and that eliminating randomness is done by eliminating randomness.

Our human race is affected by a chronic underestimation of the possibility of the future straying from the course initially envisioned (in addition to other biases that sometimes exert a compounding effect). To take an obvious example, think about how many people divorce. Almost all of them are acquainted with the statistic that between one-third and one-half of all marriages fail, something the parties involved did not forecast while tying the knot. Of course, not us, because we get along so well (as if others tying the knot got along poorly).

People work out, they stress their body, and their body gets stronger from stress.

Proof of absence does not mean the absence of proof.

Regular minds find similarities in stories (and situations); finer minds detect differences.

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.

Some business bets in which one wins big but infrequently, yet loses small but frequently, are worth making if others are suckers for them and if you have the personal and intellectual stamina.

Success is about honor, feeling morally calibrated, absence of shame, not what some newspaper defines from an external metric.

The anti-fragility of the higher level may require the fragility?and sacrifice?of the lower one.

The casino is the only human venture I know where the probabilities are known, Gaussian (i.e., bell-curve), and almost computable.

The epiphany I had in my career in randomness came when I understood that I was not intelligent enough, nor strong enough, to even try to fight my emotions.

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"