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

The difference between slaves in Roman and Ottoman days and today's employees is that slaves did not need to flatter their boss.

The government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look at its risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup. But not to worry: their large staff of scientists deemed these events "unlikely".

The number of managers with great track records in a given market depends far more on the number of people who started in the investment business (in place of going to dental school), rather than on their ability to produce profits.

The Procrustean bed in life consists precisely in simplifying the non-linear and making it linear?the simplification that distorts.

The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and non-dull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read? and the others - a very small minority - who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don?t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an anti-library.

There is such a thing as non-nerdy applied mathematics: find a problem first, and figure out the math that works for it (just as one acquires language), rather than study in a vacuum through theorems and artificial examples, then change reality to make it look like these examples.

This high-yield market resembles a nap on a railway track.

Our brain is not cut out for nonlinearities. People think that if, say, two variables are causally linked, then a steady input in one variable should always yield a result in the other one. Our emotional apparatus is designed for linear causality. For

People try to impress you with the things they have done... You should be more impressed with things they would never do.

Probability is not a mere computation of odds on the dice or more complicated variants; it is the acceptance of the lack of certainty in our knowledge and the development of methods for dealing with our ignorance.

Recall the confirmation fallacy: governments are great at telling you what they did, but not what they did not do. In fact, they engage in what could be labeled as phony philanthropy, the activity of helping people in a visible and sensational way without taking into account the unseen cemetery of invisible consequences. Bastiat inspired libertarians by attacking the usual arguments that showed the benefits of governments. But his ideas can be generalized to apply to both the Right and the Left.

Seneca and stoicism as a back door to explain why everything anti-fragile has to have more upside than downside

So, suspecting that Nero had a contract on her, she got herself Mithridatized against the poisons that would have been available to her son?s underlings. Like Mithridates, Agrippina eventually died by more mechanical methods as her son (supposedly) had assassins slay her, thus providing us with the small but meaningful lesson that one cannot be robust against everything. And, two thousand years later, nobody has found a method for us to get fortified against swords.

Stoicism, seen this way, becomes pure robustness?for the attainment of a state of immunity from one?s external circumstances, good or bad, and an absence of fragility to decisions made by fate, is robustness. Random events won?t affect us either way (we are too strong to lose, and not greedy to enjoy the upside), so we stay in the middle column of the Triad.

That very rare ability called imagination, that rarer quality called courage, and who make things happen.

The bonus for bankers fragilizes the system. Someone has the upside at the expense of others.

The difference between technology and slavery is that the slaves are fully aware that they are not free.

The grandchildren should not bear the debts of the grandparents.

The observation of the numerous misfortunes that attend all conditions forbids us to grow insolent upon our present enjoyments, or to admire a man's happiness that may yet, in course of time, suffer change. For the uncertain future has yet to come, with all variety of future; and to him only to whom the divinity has [guaranteed] continued happiness until the end we may call happy.

The psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer has a simple heuristic. Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place. You would be surprised at the difference

The track record of economists in predicting events is monstrously bad. It is beyond simplification; it is like medieval medicine.

There are designations, like economist, prostitute, or consultant, for which additional characterization doesn?t add information.

There is this error of thinking that things always have a reason that is accessible to us?that we can comprehend easily.

This idea that in order to make a decision you need to focus on the consequences (which you can know) rather than the probability (which you can?t know) is the central idea of uncertainty.

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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"