Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Giving Heuristics the Finger


I finished Nassim Nicholas Taleb's new book Antifragile, and while I can't say it was fun and delightful, like a Malcolm Gladwell, I will say that it is a book you must read -- while Taleb is no great stylist, his thinking is logical, powerful, anti-establishment, anti-intellectual and apolitical -- which is refreshing; while this book frequents some of the same financial territory as The Black Swan, Taleb also ranges far, wide, and crazy with his thesis about systems that gain from volatility versus systems that are fragile, systems that fall apart in volatile times; I love what he has to say about books and technology . . . he explains that probabilistically, they age in an opposite fashion from humans: when you see an old human, you infer that he will probably live less time than a young human, but you should think in the reverse in regards to technology and books -- the longer the item has been around, the longer it probably will be around . . . we are stuck with cars and bicycles and cups and chairs for a long time, and the same with Shakespeare and Homer and Herodotus (Taleb tries only to read books that have been around for a long long time, and he claims only to drink things that have thousands of years of trials: coffee, tea, wine and water . . . he is a wacky guy) and what his philosophy ultimately comes down to is that you can only trust opinions from people with "skin in the game" and so he hates managers and governments and large institutions and pundits (especially Thomas Friedman, who he claims helped encourage the U.S. to invade Iraq, though he himself wouldn't be put in any danger if this happened) and pretty much anyone who doesn't have their own money on the line each and every day . . . he's brash, obnoxious, smart, frustrating, and also offers some diet and weight-lifting tips along with the finance and philosophy.

2 comments:

zman said...

Dave = Taleb

Dave said...

i've certainly got no style.

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