Nassim Nicholas Taleb traveled the conventional route of education to real-life and theory to practice in inverse sequence from the common one, moving from the practical to the philosophical to the mathematical. He started as a trader, then got a doctorate in mid-trading career; he wrote literary books before writing technical papers, and his work became progressively more technical and formal with time.

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Nassim Taleb Excerpts with John Boyd (2015). These are excerpts of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book Antifragile. I use Maestro’s words as a skeleton to build upon some ideas synthesized by Col John Boyd and Miyamoto Musashi. Themes include: Knowledge as intuition built from engaging with reality, understanding when an adversary is employing the Art of the Advantage against you and when to call bulls*t, and why it’s important to embrace uncertainty and randomness in order to affirm life and accomplish life’s aim.

Articles and Videos

Aditya Birla Sun Life AMC Limited - Voyage2020 Day 2 (2020). Topic: Neither Black Swan nor White Swan - Don’t Listen to Pseudo Experts.

Naive Empiricism, Terrorism, & Ebola (2017). Nassim Taleb explains why Bill Gates should do more thinking, less naive empiricism a la Pinker. Public understanding of risk: "It is a property of fat tail distribution to not match past data — in other words, the sample mean does not reveal the true means. Therefore, journalistic fact checking doesn’t correspond to statistically properties. People say we’re naive to worry about Ebola when alcohol kills so many people but alcohol is not that multiplicative. It may be an epidemic but nothing like Ebola. Ebola could wipe out a lot of people". In the tail, the ratio of probability is vastly higher than in the body. The reason Ebola turned out to be relatively contained is because we worried about it — the same with terrorism. A lot of people commit these fallacies. Examples: Steven Pinker — Neither does he have a statistical understanding nor does he have the humanity to know so; however, where this gets very dangerous is with a large group. As an example, these people working for President Obama — who thankfully is no longer in Washington — who is trying to measure us into biases when in fact these biases were not real and thus increasing risk to society. (YouTube).

Nassim Nicholas Taleb The Black Swan The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2010). If a bridge collapses and only the last truck (gets destroyed). Butterfly in India Concept: There are a lot more butterflies than events, and you’re not going to study every butterfly ahead of time; science is prospective not retrospective because we have hindsight biases. The government and universities are a lot less fit to understand what is doing on than they were 35 years ago (as of 2020). In other words, the world has gained in complexity while incompetence has risen a lot more. "Every 10 years, collective wisdom degrades by half." Area Square Law: You have a lot more species per square meter on islands than you do on continents… in other words, diversity decreases as your space becomes larger; that is an effect of the result of globalization — you start having more clustering. You had local poets and local languages, now the whole planet speaks English and reads Harry Potter. Size and specialization causes you to be a lot more fragile and less robust to changes in the environment (Mother Nature is vastly smarter than economists and biologists). Organically, things develop in a way to be robust: They face stressors and they become robust. We humans have been messing up this thing with utopias. When are constantly bailing out (antibiotics less robust to next epidemic, bail-outs). We fragilize ourselves (e.g., air conditioners fragilize ourselves so we cannot experience thermal gyrations). Not something being right or wrong: How come something can be deemed as wrong by individuals but deemed true by the collective (i.e., cab drivers know you cannot forecast, but the collective believes in the stock market)? It is easier to scam people with billions than scam them with thousands and it is a lot easier to fool multitudes than it is to fool a single person. Institutional stickiness: When it is their profession they cannot stop. Mother Nature does not act this way; Mother Nature kills, it does not have tenure. It acts by destroying not by teaching or preaching. So, if you do not have that filtering mechanism, future generations end up paying for our mistakes. How can you have pseudo-experts last so long? You cannot stop people from being charlatans so the key is to build a system where people can make all the mistakes they want without endangering others. Hedging epidemics: Cannot hedge epidemics because you have airplanes. Epidemics travel much faster than before, and fatter-tailed than before because planet more connected than ever before - get out of the fourth quadrant. How to stop "Too Big to Fail": Remove advantage given to big guy, or stop favoring big guy. Let them die and go to the funeral. Marx and Engels: Whether you are liberation or communist, you are going to have collusion between state and large companies, and that is Europe. "Employ 300K people, highjacking the state." If you know anything about history of big companies, it is that they love to self-destroy. (YouTube).

Localism in Lebanon (2019). "What’s going on in Lebanon? People just discovered localism; that you don’t want to be managed from the top but from the bottom. You want to manage yourself, or you want to manage yourself as a community with your neighbor, or with the extent the neighborhood, or with the commune. So you extend all the way up… is more of the problem than the solution. The state is not composed of some abstract entity called the State, but civil servants with extremely different interests." (Twitter).

Nassim Taleb on the Current Lebanese Political and Economic Situation (2019). Nassim speaks about Lebanon's reliance on circular bank lending, how the State created incentives that destroyed the local economy, how patronage in the government works as a veil of legality that created roadblocks for local economy, centralization of culture and how Nation-States killed localism in the Ottoman Empire…"that’s why you should have your own corner and then you set up your relations with others as you wish, just like the British are doing with Brexit… in UK, Spain, Italy they’re still a bunch of regions the idea of the Nation-State has still not been applied… they all have their own identifies… they are decentralized communities." People are over-optimized and over-specialized. (YouTube).

Interview with Nassim Taleb (2019). Interview about localism, and the Beirut Madinati experience. (YouTube).

Learn to Harvest Uncertainty (2019). Nassim Taleb talks about how the real skill in life aren’t skills in handling the known, but how you can handle the unknown and actually "make a buck out of it". Discussion and debate with Dmitry Peskov at the WorldSkills Conference. (YouTube).

Conversation with Harold Hudson Channer (2001). The video highlights Taleb's early thoughts on a range of topics: Skepticism; knowledge about the dynamics of history; inferential claims, stoicism facing random events; theories of non-hedonic happiness; probability theory; statistical physics; opacity & decision making under incomplete information; the mental biases making us "fooled" by randomness. Remarkable is @ (34:27), Taleb described Dawkins as his "master in thinking" and later demonstrating that we all can be fooled. (YouTube).

Commencement Speech at American University of Beirut (2016). Avoid completely: Muscles without strength; friendships without trust; opinion without risk; change without aesthetics; food without nourishment; facts without rigor; degrees without erudition; militarism without fortitude; progress without civilization; complication without debt; fluency without content; religion without tolerance. Nassim Taleb’s commentary on the speech. (YouTube).

Charles Murray & Nassim Taleb: Human Accomplishment and The Black Swan (2007). Charles Murray and Nassim Taleb discus interpretations of historical achievement and great human accomplishments, including the analysis of unexpected events throughout history. (YouTube).

Painting by Luca Giordano: The Death of Seneca.
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