Recent posts on Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Some not so stupid people

To balance out after my post about not so smart people I follow it up with not stupid people. Starting with one really exceptional guy – Nassim Nicholas Taleb. In contrast to Sam Harris he is actually seeing science and mathematics as extremely limited.

His idea of “Black Swans” is one example. These are extreme events that change everything. And no probability or science can possibly predict them. Here’s a short explanation (an excerpt of this talk):

If you need mre: here is a radio nice about it, where he explains it very nicely with the financial crisis. The segment is called “The Fragility Crisis is Just Begun” (direct link to the mp3). The crisis is a practical entry point. But the whole thing is based on a more philosophical idea – which he explains in a one and a half hour talk at the Philosophy Department at Princeton.

It goes even deeper though. We have the impression often that math and science nowadays describes most of everything – but he argues that there is a huge difference between this “academic knowledge” and our “experienced knowledge”. And that in fact academic knowledge does plays the much smaller role in our every day life.

Besides all that – he used to write incredible little quotes on twitter. Every day 3 mind-openers. Well, he deleted the account recently, but posts still some little gems on his facebook account and plans an aphorism book. Some examples:

  • You will be civilized the day you can spend time doing nothing, learning nothing, & improving nothing, without feeling slightest guilt.
  • Unlike a well-defined, precise game like Russian roulette, where the risks are visible to anyone capable of multiplying and dividing by six, one does not observe the barrel of reality.
  • You EXIST if & only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification &, above all, no narrative.
  • Modernity: We created youth without heroism, age without wisdom, and life without grandeur.
  • Would you rather be a lion in captivity and live 24 years, or in the wild and live 10-14 years? Answer the question every morning then look at your condition.
  • Charm lies in the unsaid, the unwritten, and the undisplayed. It takes mastery to control silence.

Ouch, this text got way longer than I expected. So I will only add one more and make another post about other smarty pants later.

Contrasting again with someone that the former person would maybe not appreciate having in the same posting, since Mr. Taleb dislikes Atheists and has a grudge against TED-talkers (and does care a lot about my blog obviously): Richard Dawkins.
Although he’s so different from Nassim Taleb in many of his views, I still cannot say that I ever heard one wrong word from him. Damn, sometimes I wish the world would make it simpler to stand on one side. Dawkins changed our view on evolution, gave us the word “Memes” and popularized the concept. Everyone knows his stance on Religion, so I won’t bore you with that. Here is one of his TED talks – it’s called “The Queer Universe” and one of the most inspiring I have seen to this day: