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 iatrogenics is in the patient, not in the treatment. If the patient is close to death, all speculative treatments should be encouraged?no holds barred. Conversely, if the patient is near healthy, then Mother Nature should be the doctor.

The only valid political system is one that can handle an imbecile in power without suffering from it

The real- estate collapse of the early 1990s in which the now defunct savings and loan industry required a taxpayer-funded bailout of more than half a trillion dollars. The Federal Reserve bank protected them at our expense: when "conservative" bankers make pro?ts, they get the bene?ts; when they are hurt, we pay the costs.

The trick is to be bored with a specific book, rather than with the act of reading. So the number of the pages absorbed could grow faster than otherwise. And you find gold, so to speak, effortlessly, just as in rational but undirected trial-and-error-based research. It is exactly like options, trial and error, not getting stuck, bifurcating when necessary but keeping a sense of broad freedom and opportunism.

There are traps built into any kind of knowledge gained from observation.

They are born, put in a box; they go home to live in a box; they study by ticking boxes; they go to what is called "work" in a box, where they sit in their cubicle box; they drive to the grocery store in a box to buy food in a box; they talk about thinking "outside the box"; and when they die they are put in a box.

This is the reason I put social science theories in the left column of the Triad, as something super-fragile for real-world decisions and unusable for risk analyses. The very designation theory is even upsetting. In social science we should call these constructs chimeras rather than theories.

Our minds are wonderful explanation machines, capable of making sense out of almost anything, capable of mounting explanations for all manner of phenomena, and generally incapable of accepting the idea of unpredictability.

Philosophers talk about truth and falsehood. People in life talk about payoff, exposure, and consequences (risks and rewards), hence fragility and anti-fragility. And sometimes philosophers and thinkers and those who study conflate Truth with risks and rewards.

Psychologists have shown the irony of the process of thought control: the more energy you put into trying to control your ideas and what you think about, the more your ideas end up controlling you.

Remember that you are a Black Swan.

Simplicity is not so simple to attain.

Some can be more intelligent than others in a structured environment?in fact school has a selection bias as it favors those quicker in such an environment, and like anything competitive, at the expense of performance outside it. Although I was not yet familiar with gyms, my idea of knowledge was as follows. People who build their strength using these modern expensive gym machines can lift extremely large weights, show great numbers and develop impressive-looking muscles, but fail to lift a stone; they get completely hammered in a street fight by someone trained in more disorderly settings. Their strength is extremely domain-specific and their domain doesn't exist outside of ludic?extremely organized?constructs. In fact their strength, as with over-specialized athletes, is the result of a deformity. I thought it was the same with people who were selected for trying to get high grades in a small number of subjects rather than follow their curiosity: try taking them slightly away from what they studied and watch their decomposition, loss of confidence, and denial. (Just like corporate executives are selected for their ability to put up with the boredom of meetings, many of these people were selected for their ability to concentrate on boring material.) I've debated many economists who claim to specialize in risk and probability: when one takes them slightly outside their narrow focus, but within the discipline of probability, they fall apart, with the disconsolate face of a gym rat in front of a gangster hit man.

Success is becoming in middle adulthood what you dreamed to be in late childhood.

The appearance of busyness reinforces the perception of causality, of the link between results, and one's role in them.

The central idea in The Black Swan is that: rare events cannot be estimated from empirical observation since they are rare.

The error in reasoning is a bit from wishful thinking, because education is considered good; I wonder why people don?t make the epiphenomenal association between the wealth of a country and something bad, say, decadence, and infer that decadence, or some other disease of wealth like a high suicide rate, also generates wealth.

The imagination of the genius vastly surpasses his intellect; the intellect of the academic vastly surpasses his imagination

The opposite of fragile is something that gains from disorder.

The richer we become, the harder it gets to live within our means. Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity.

The true hero in the Black Swan world is someone who prevents a calamity and, naturally, because the calamity did not take place, does not get recognition?or a bonus?for it. I will be taking the concept deeper in Book VII, on ethics, about the unfairness of a bonus system and how such unfairness is magnified by complexity.

There is a certain category of fool-the overeducated, the academic, the journalist, the newspaper reader, the mechanistic scientist, the pseudo-empiricist, those endowed with what I call epistemic arrogance, this wonderful ability to discount what they did not see, the unobserved.

They game the system while citizens pay the price. At no point in history have so many non-risk-takers, that is, those with no personal exposure, exerted so much control. The chief ethical rule is the following: Thou shalt not have anti-fragility at the expense of the fragility of others.

This is the tragedy of modernity: as with neurotically overprotective parents, those trying to help are often hurting us the most.

One general, Fabius Maximus was nicknamed Cunctator, the Procrastinator. He drove Hannibal, who had an obvious military superiority, crazy by avoiding and delaying engagement.

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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"