nassim nicholas taleb

nassim taleb

heard of him forever.

adding page via this black swan reference for scotland’s independence run

this caught me as well – off the black swan amazon page bio:


Nassim Nicholas Taleb spent two decades as a trader and risk taker before becoming a full-time essayist and scholar focusing on practical, philosophical and mathematical problems with chance, luck, and probability. His focus in on how different systems handle disorder. Taleb is currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University’s School of Engineering, but he spends most of his time in the intense seclusion of his study, or as a flâneur meditating in cafés.

 what i’ve seen.

huge: taleb antifragile law


the black swan

book links to amazon

– – –


black swan notes

published 2010

One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings

for over a century, have operated under the false belief that their tools could measure uncertainty

stop measuring

certain professionals, while believing they are experts, are in fact not. Based on their empirical record, they do not know more about their subject matter than the general population, but they are much better at narrating—or, worse, at smoking you with complicated mathematical models. They are also more likely to wear a tie.

oh my math ness

overload of examples naïve empiricism—successions of anecdotes selected to fit a story do not constitute evidence. Anyone looking for confirmation will find enough of it to deceive himself—and no doubt his peers.*

I stick my neck out and make a claim, against many of our habits of thought, that our world is dominated by the extreme, the unknown, and the very improbable (improbable according our current knowledge)—and all the while we spend our time engaged in small talk, focusing on the known, and the repeated.

People became encyclopedias of who had met with whom and which politician said what to which other politician (and with what tone of voice: “Was he more friendly than usual?”). Yet to no avail.

Nobody knew anything, but elite thinkers thought that they knew more than the rest because they were elite thinkers, and if you’re a member of the elite, you automatically know more than the nonelite.

Categorizing always produces reduction in true complexity. rules out some sources of uncertainty;

I felt in my spine the weight of the epistemic arrogance of the human race.*

not only are some scientific results useless in real life, because they underestimate the impact of the highly improbable (or lead us to ignore it), but that many of them may be actually creating Black Swans

empirical reality is not “measured,” and its own version of “reasonableness” does not correspond to the conventional middlebrow definition. To be genuinely empirical is to reflect reality as faithfully as possible; to be honorable implies not fearing the appearance and consequences of being outlandish.

I believe that the big transition in social life came not with the gramophone, but when someone had the great but unjust idea to invent the alphabet, thus allowing us to store information and reproduce it. It accelerated further when another inventor had the even more dangerous and iniquitous notion of starting a printing press, thus promoting texts across boundaries and triggering what ultimately grew into a winner-take-all ecology.

level timeline ness

It is hard for us to accept that people do not fall in love with works of art only for their own sake, but also in order to feel that they belong to a community. By imitating, we get closer to others—that is, other imitators. It fights solitude.

most people are other people. trumping authenticity for attachment.

perhaps why ie: th experiment and this mit & twitter – and even maker ness – won’t get us there – until we free people up to be themselves. twitter data is irrelevant – if it’s not really us. no? how to make it not an imitation. every day.

oct 1, 2014 – Jerome Bruner – 99 yrs old

via Maria:

(from article): Today, we hang so much of our identity on our capacity to create, often confusing what we do for who we are. And while creativity, by and large, is a positive force in the external world, its blind pursuit can be damaging to the inner.

need for echo chamber ness

Something has worked in the past, until—well, it unexpectedly no longer does, and what we have learned from the past turns out to be at best irrelevant or false, at worst viciously misleading.

“We” are the empirical decision makers who hold that uncertainty is our discipline, and that understanding how to act under conditions of incomplete information is the highest and most urgent human pursuit.

This, perhaps, is true self-confidence: the ability to look at the world without the need to find signs that stroke one’s ego.*

Once your mind is inhabited with a certain view of the world, you will tend to only consider instances proving you to be right. Paradoxically, the more information you have, the more justified you will feel in your views.

Explanations bind facts together. They make them all the more easily remembered; they help them make more sense. Where this propensity can go wrong is when it increases our impression of understanding.

Nonlinear relationships can vary; perhaps the best way to describe them is to say that they cannot be expressed verbally in a way that does justice to them.

grokking that tacit.. with or w/o words.. Lanier wish (along w/the rest of us)

jaron on words

These nonlinear relationships are ubiquitous in life. Linear relationships are truly the exception; we only focus on them in classrooms and textbooks because they are easier to understand.

most people engaged in the pursuits that i call “concentrated” spend most of their time waiting for the big day that (usually) never comes. true, this takes your mind away from the pettiness of life- the cappuccino that is too warm or too cold, the waiter too slow or too intrusive, the food too spicy or not enough, …..all these considerations disappear because you have your mind on much bigger and better things. but this does not mean that the person insulated from materialistic pursuits becomes impervious to other pains, those issuing from disrespect. of ten these black swan hunters feel shame or are made to feel shame, at not contributing. “you betrayed those who had high hopes for you,” they are told, increasing their feeling of guilt. the problem of lumpy payoffs is not so much in the lack of income they entail, but the pecking order, the loss of dignity, the subtle humiliations near the watercolor.

..when you look at the empirical record, you not only see that venture capitalists do better than entrepreneurs, but publishers do better than writers, dealers do better than artists, and science does better than scientists (about 50 percent of scientific and scholarly papers, costing months, sometimes years, of effort, are never truly read). The person involved in such gambles is paid in a currency other than material success: hope.

internet’s on boy ness

 The neglect of silent evidence is endemic to the way we study comparative talent, particularly in activities that are plagued with winner-take-all attributes. We may enjoy what we see, but there is no point reading too much into success stories because we do not see the full picture.

 (randomness, in practice, is what we don’t know; to invoke randomness is to plead ignorance)

i don’t know ness

 We love the tangible, the confirmation, the palpable, the real, the visible, the concrete, the known, the seen, the vivid, the visual, the social, the embedded, the emotionally laden, the salient, the stereotypical, the moving, the theatrical, the romanced, the cosmetic, the official, the scholarly-sounding verbiage (b******t), the pompous Gaussian economist, the mathematicized crap, the pomp, the Académie Française, Harvard Business School, the Nobel Prize, dark business suits with white shirts and Ferragamo ties, the moving discourse, and the lurid. Most of all we favor the narrated

we are not manufactured, in our current edition of the human race, to understand abstract matters—we need context. Randomness and uncertainty are abstractions. We respect what has happened, ignoring what could have happened. In other words, we are naturally shallow and superficial—and we do not know it. This is not a psychological problem; it comes from the main property of information. The dark side of the moon is harder to see; beaming light on it costs energy. In the same way, beaming light on the unseen is costly in both computational and mental effort

or actually – we are currently via manufacturing – shallow and superficial – and don’t know it

you may have to denarrate,..

that is, shut down the television set, minimize time spent reading newspapers, ignore the blogs.

..Train your reasoning abilities to control your decisions;

choice ness – in charge of the day ness. it is legal to think for yourself..

..nudge System 1 (the heuristic or experiential system) out of the important ones. Train yourself to spot the difference between the sensational and the empirical…

..This insulation from the toxicity of the world will have an additional benefit: it will improve your well-being

huge – that it’s that simple.. realizing we can think for ourselves. 24/7. and the need – at least in the transition to betterness – for a crafted echo-chamber.

you do not have to do much more in order to gain a deeper understanding of things around you.

quiet enough ness:  listen to your heart. listen to the beat. listen to the rhythm, the rhythm of the street.. it’s a simple message and it come from the heart…

Melanie – on beauty – as a state of being – of what you choose to pay attention to

What Nietzsche means by this term are the dogma-prone newspaper readers and opera lovers who have cosmetic exposure to culture and shallow depth. I extend the term here to the philistine hiding in academia who lacks in erudition out of lack of curiosity and is closely centered on his ideas.

cure for curiosity

But the last thing you need to do when you deal with uncertainty is to “focus” (you should tell uncertainty to focus, not us). This “focus” makes you a sucker; it translates into prediction problems, as we will see in the next section. Prediction, not narration, is the real test of our understanding of the world.

When I ask people to name three recently implemented technologies that most impact our world today, they usually propose the computer, the Internet, and the laser. All three were unplanned, unpredicted, and unappreciated upon their discovery, and remained unappreciated well after their initial use. They were consequential. They were Black Swans. Of course, we have this retrospective illusion of their partaking in some master plan. You can create your own lists with similar results, whether you use political events, wars, or intellectual epidemics. You would expect our record of prediction to be horrible: the world is far, far more complicated than we think, which is not a problem, except when most of us don’t know it. We tend to “tunnel” while looking into the future, making it business as usual, Black Swan–free, when in fact there is nothing usual about the future.

We have seen how good we are at narrating backward, at inventing stories that convince us that we understand the past. For many people, knowledge has the remarkable power of producing confidence instead of measurable aptitude. Another problem: the focus on the (inconsequential) regular, the Platonification that makes the forecasting “inside the box.”

why we can’t get out of the cycle..

i find it scandalous that in spite of the empirical record we continue to project into the future as if we were good at it, using tools and methods that exclude rare events. prediction is firmly institutionalized in our world. we are suckers for those who help us navigate uncertainty, whether the fortune-teller or the “well-published” (dull) academics or civil servants using phony mathematics.

Yogi Berra – “it is tough to make predictions especially about the future” – while he did not produce the writings that would allow him to be considered a philosopher, in spite of his wisdom and intellectual abilities, Berra can claim to know something about randomness. he was a practitioner of uncertainty, and, as a baseball player and coach, regularly faced random outcomes, and had to face their results deep into his bones.

the gains in our ability to model (and predict) the world may be dwarfed by the increases in its complexity –  implying a greater and greater role for the unpredicted. the larger the role of the Black Swan, the harder it will be for us to predict. sorry.

too big to know & too much ness meeting prior to now ness. and so – we can’t not.

huge opportunity to undo/renew.. and carry on..

Epistemic arrogance bears a double effect: we overestimate what we know, and underestimate uncertainty,

When you are employed, hence dependent on other people’s judgment, looking busy can help you claim responsibility for the results in a random environment.

earn a living ness. there’s got to be another way.

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

one main effect of information: impediment to knowledge.

the more detailed knowledge one gets of empirical reality, the more one will see the noise (i.e., the anecdote) and mistake it for actual information. Remember that we are swayed by the sensational.

shiny ness

things that move, and therefore require knowledge, do not usually have experts, while things that don’t move seem to have some experts.

Out of close to a million papers published in politics, finance, and economics, there have been only a small number of checks on the predictive quality of such knowledge.

and yet – such an outlandish monetary industry..  internet’s own boy et al

If there is one advantage of having been in the daily practice of uncertainty, it is that one does not have to take any crap from bureaucrats.

bureaucrat: an official in a government department, in particular one perceived as being concerned with procedural correctness at the expense of people’s needs.

People who are trapped in their jobs who forecast simply because “that’s my job,” knowing pretty well that their forecast is ineffectual, are not what I would call ethical. What they do is no different from repeating lies simply because “it’s my job.”

wake people up from this.. but also having a mechanism/hospice in place – for them/us – two-loop theory ness

Sir Francis Bacon commented that the most important advances are the least predictable ones, those “lying out of the path of the imagination.”

Small differences in where this tiny body is located will eventually dictate the future of the behemoth planets.

qr & exponentiation ness

Poincaré was the first known big-gun mathematician to understand and explain that there are fundamental limits to our equations. He introduced nonlinearities, small effects that can lead to severe consequences, an idea that later became popular, perhaps a bit too popular, as chaos theory. What’s so poisonous about this popularity? Because Poincaré’s entire point is about the limits that nonlinearities put on forecasting; they are not an invitation to use mathematical techniques to make extended forecasts. Mathematics can show us its own limits rather clearly. There is (as usual) an element of the unexpected in this story.

… was about the stability of the solar system, … a calculation error, …. led to the opposite conclusion – unpredictability.. or, more technically, nonintegrability.

Lorenz subsequently realized that the consequential divergence in his results arose not from error, but from a small rounding in the input parameters. This became known as the butterfly effect, since a butterfly moving its wings in India could cause a hurricane in New York, two years later. Lorenz’s findings generated interest in the field of chaos theory.

Poincaré proposed that we can only work with qualitative matters—some property of systems can be discussed, but not computed.

For Hayek, a true forecast is done organically by a system, not by fiat. One single institution, say, the central planner, cannot aggregate knowledge; many important pieces of information will be missing. But society as a whole will be able to integrate into its functioning these multiple pieces of information. Society as a whole thinks outside the box.

fiat: a formal authorization or proposition; a decree.

not by compulsion.. and the sync of the entire system. none of us if one of us ness.

..we overestimate our ability to understand the subtle changes that constitute the world,

it is another matter to project when humans are involved, if you consider them living beings and endowed with free will.

choice matters. changes everything. every day.

if you believe in free will you can’t truly believe in social science and economic projection.

In orthodox economics, rationality became a straitjacket. Platonified economists ignored the fact that people might prefer to do something other than maximize their economic interests.

this led to mathematical techniques such as “maximization,” or “optimization….. this optimization set back social science by reducing it from the intellectual and reflective discipline that it was becoming to an attempt at an “exact science.”

by exact science i mean a second-rate engineering problem for those who want to pretend that they are in the physics dept – so called physics envy. in other words, and intellectual fraud.

it (optimization) had no practical (or even theoretical) use, and so it became principally a competition for academic positions, a way to make people compete with mathematical muscle.

j m keynes, friedrich hayek, benoit mandelbrot… all .. displaced because the moved economics away from the precision of second0rate physics. …. gls shackle now almost completely obscure, who intro’d the notion of “unknowledge,” that is the unread books in umberto eco’s library.

Some parts of it appear to be linear and we are fooled by extrapolating in a direct line.*


line of best fit ness. zoom out ness.

desperately needed: ebola, Ed, ….

Nelson Goodman called the riddle of induction: We project a straight line only because we have a linear model in our head—the fact that a number has risen for 1,000 days straight should make you more confident that it will rise in the future. But if you have a nonlinear model in your head, it might confirm that the number should decline on day 1,001

..if there is no longer even a single unique way to “generalize” from what you see, to make an inference about the unknown, then how should you operate? The answer, clearly, will be that you should employ “common sense,” but your common sense may not be so well developed with respect to some Extremistan variables.

how to prep for uncertainty?..  follow your whimsy.

ie: swim in it. embrace it.

but perhaps we need to free ourselves up from the supposed tos first/alongside..

ie: facilitate 7 bill people following their whimsy. every day. a chip ish ness on curiosity.

“Linear regression” or “R-square” can ultimately fool you beyond measure, to the point where it is no longer funny. You can fit the linear part of the curve and claim a high R-square, meaning that your model fits the data very well and has high predictive powers. All that off hot air: you only fit the linear segment of the series. Always remember that “R-square” is unfit for Extremistan; it is only good for academic promotion.

Montaigne’s subject, officially, was himself, but this was mostly as a means to facilitate the discussion;

Homo sum, humani a me nil alienum puto—I am a man, and nothing human is foreign to me.

i know you ness

..a society governed from the basis of the awareness of ignorance, not knowledge. Alas, one cannot assert authority by accepting one’s own fallibility. Simply, people need to be blinded by knowledge—we are made to follow leaders who can gather people together because the advantages of being in groups trump the disadvantages of being alone. It has been more profitable for us to bind together in the wrong direction than to be alone in the right one.

on bravery

Some truths only hit children—adults and nonphilosophers get sucked into the minutiae of practical life and need to worry about “serious matters,” so they abandon these insights for seemingly more relevant questions.

while in theory randomness is an intrinsic property, in practice, randomness is incomplete information, what I called opacity

Randomness, in the end, is just unknowledge. The world is opaque and appearances fool us.

like chimamanda ness – and there’s never nothing going on ness

People are often ashamed of losses, so they engage in strategies that produce very little volatility but contain the risk of a large loss—like collecting nickels in front of steamrollers

rather than thinking the world is moving by small incremental random changes..  Nassim says the world, rather, moves by large incremental random changes. fare best if you know where your ignorance lies, if you are the only one looking at the unread books, so to speak.

fitting again (ebola) with bravery and average joe ness

To be contagious, a mental category must agree with our nature.

deep enough.. for all of us to perpetuate it.. because it’s deep enough.

Dan Sperber has proposed the following idea on the epidemiology of representations. What people call “memes,” ideas that spread and that compete with one another using people as carriers, are not truly like genes. Ideas spread because, alas, they have for carriers self-serving agents who are interested in them, and interested in distorting them in the replication process.

The last ten deutschmark bill, representing Gauss and, to his right, the bell curve of Mediocristan.

..the bell curve is used as a risk-measurement tool by those regulators and central bankers who wear dark suits and talk in a boring way about currencies.

Uncertainty in Mediocristan vanishes under averaging. This illustrates the hackneyed “law of large numbers.”

hackneyed: lacking significance through having been overused; unoriginal and trite.

The safety of my coffee cup illustrates how the randomness of the Gaussian is tamable by averaging. If my cup were one large particle, or acted as one, then its jumping would be a problem. But my cup is the sum of trillions of very small particles.

..domesticated fluctuations around the mean.

The bell curve satisfies the reductionism of the deluded.

If you use the term statistically significant, beware of the illusions of certainties. Odds are that someone has looked at his observation errors and assumed that they were Gaussian, which necessitates a Gaussian context, namely, Mediocristan, for it to be acceptable.

This monstrosity called the Gaussian bell curve is not Gauss’s doing. Although he worked on it, he was a mathematician dealing with a theoretical point, not making claims about the structure of reality like statistical-minded scientists. G. H. Hardy wrote in “A Mathematician’s Apology”: The “real” mathematics of the “real” mathematicians, the mathematics of Fermat and Euler and Gauss and Abel and Riemann, is almost wholly “useless” (and this is as true of “applied” as of “pure” mathematics).

a large (too large) number of people using the word standard deviation do not understand this point. Standard deviation is just a number that you scale things to, a matter of mere correspondence if phenomena were Gaussian.

Galileo, otherwise a debunker of falsehoods, wrote the following: The great book of Nature lies ever open before our eyes and the true philosophy is written in it. … But we cannot read it unless we have first learned the language and the characters in which it is written. … It is written in mathematical language and the characters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures. Was Galileo legally blind? Even the great Galileo, with all his alleged independence of mind, was not capable of taking a clean look at Mother Nature. I am confident that he had windows in his house and that he ventured outside from time to time: he should have known that triangles are not easily found in nature. We are so easily brainwashed.

oh my math. esp compulsory school math (which has so much pisa-ristical power), is the essence of regime men ship. the (mostly) invisible poison of our natural/authentic/ever-sustaining energy – curiosity. et al. it sophisticatedly keeps us mindless. and so renders us compliant. orderly.

fractal thinking et al

Fractal is a word Mandelbrot coined to describe the geometry of the rough and broken—from the Latin fractus, the origin of fractured. Fractality is the repetition of geometric patterns at different scales, revealing smaller and smaller versions of themselves. Small parts resemble, to some degree, the whole. I will try to show in this chapter how the fractal applies to the brand of uncertainty that should bear Mandelbrot’s name: Mandelbrotian randomness.

The veins in leaves look like branches; branches look like trees; rocks look like small mountains. There is no qualitative change when an object changes size.

This character of self-affinity implies that one deceptively short and simple rule of iteration can be used, either by a computer or, more randomly, by Mother Nature, to build shapes of seemingly great complexity. This can come in handy for computer graphics, but, more important, it is how nature works. Mandelbrot designed the mathematical object now known as the Mandelbrot set, the most famous object in the history of mathematics. It became popular with followers of chaos theory because it generates pictures of ever increasing complexity by using a deceptively minuscule recursive rule; recursive means that something can be reapplied to itself infinitely. You can look at the set at smaller and smaller resolutions without ever reaching the limit; you will continue to see recognizable shapes. The shapes are never the same, yet they bear an affinity to one another, a strong family resemblance.

Fractals initially made Benoît M. a pariah in the mathematical establishment.

how fitting. pariah: outcast

So Mandelbrot spent time as an intellectual refugee at an IBM research center in upstate New York. It was a f*** you money situation, as IBM let him do whatever he felt like doing.

the luxury to do whatever you want. imagine 7 billion people with that (money absent) access/privilege. nclb redefined. 100% google for 100% people. 24/7.

The computer age helped him become one of the most influential mathematicians in history, in terms of the applications of his work, way before his acceptance by the ivory tower. We will see that, in addition to its universality, his work offers an unusual attribute: it is remarkably easy to understand.

Mandelbrot came to France from Warsaw in 1936, at the age of twelve. Owing to the vicissitudes of a clandestine life during Nazi-occupied France, he was spared some of the conventional Gallic education with its uninspiring algebraic drills, becoming largely self-taught. the generation of visual intuitions lies a dialectic between the mathematician and the objects generated.

The rug at eye level corresponds to Mediocristan and the law of large numbers: I am seeing the sum of undulations, and these iron out. This is like Gaussian randomness: the reason my cup of coffee does not jump is that the sum of all of its moving particles becomes smooth. Likewise, you reach certainties by adding up small Gaussian uncertainties: this is the law of large numbers.

The key here is that the fractal has numerical or statistical measures that are (somewhat) preserved across scales—the ratio is the same, unlike the Gaussian.

Fractals should be the default, the approximation, the framework. They do not solve the Black Swan problem and do not turn all Black Swans into predictable events, but they significantly mitigate the Black Swan problem by making such large events conceivable. (It makes them gray.

Recall that nonlinear processes have greater degrees of freedom than linear ones.

perfect. no?

We are teaching people methods from Mediocristan and turning them loose in Extremistan. It is like developing a medicine for plants and applying it to humans. It is no wonder that we run the biggest risk of all: we handle matters that belong to Extremistan, but treated as if they belonged to Mediocristan, as an “approximation.” is contagion that determines the fate of a theory in social science, not its validity..

Locke’s definition of a madman: someone “reasoning correctly from erroneous premises.

The more you extend the period (or reduce the size of the bets) the more randomness, by virtue of averaging, drops out of these gambling constructs.

At their core, all theories built around the ludic fallacy ignore a layer of uncertainty. Worse, their proponents do not know it!

The ludic fallacy is a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his 2007 book The Black Swan. “Ludic” is from the Latin ludus, meaning “play, game, sport, pastime.” It is summarized as “the misuse of games to model real-life situations.”

oh how the dance matters.

the greater uncertainty principle states that in quantum physics, one cannot measure certain pairs of values(with arbitrary precision), such as the position and momentum of particles. you will hit a lower bound of measurement: what you gain in the precision of one, you lose in the other.

exactly what i find in money ness and changing the world ness…  ie: need for sync that is awake to sum zero ness

so there is an incompressible uncertainty that, in theory, will defy science and forever remain an uncertainty. this minimum uncertainty was discovered by Werner Heisenberg in 1927. i find it ludicrous to present the uncertainty principle as having anything to do with uncertainty. why? first, this uncertainty is gaussian. on average, it will disappear…. they average out – for pluto‘s sake.

If there is one thing on this planet that is not so uncertain, it is the behavior of a collection of subatomic particles! Why? Because, as I have said earlier, when you look at an object, composed of a collection of particles, the fluctuations of the particles tend to balance out.

subatomic particle: a particle smaller than an atom (e.g. a neutron) or a cluster of such particles

partial freedom is no freedom. we can’t dance.. if one of us is chained.. or if any of us are partially chained.

because then – most people are other people. i see the Gatto’s fleas.. leveling to compliance.. even without the lid after a certain time. the subatomic. which is fine if that’s the game 100% of us decide to play. [ie: let’s be fake] it’s just making us all ill/dead.

[not to be confused with a good ginormously small ness.. ie: the more individual we get the more we see the interconnectedness of the entire body/city/world. prejudice decreases as discrimination increases.]

but political, social, and weather events do not have this handy property, and we patently cannot predict them, so when you hear “experts” presenting the problems of uncertainty in therms of subatomic particles, odds are that they expert is a phony. as a matter of fact, this may be the best way to spot a phony.

oh gosh – this whole next part:

i often hear people say, “of course there are limits to our knowledge,” then invoke the greater uncertainty principle as they try to explain that “we cannot model everything” – i have heard such types as the economist Myron Scholes say this at conferences. but i am sitting here in ny, in august 2006, trying to go to my ancestral village of amioun, lebanon. beirut’s airport is closed owing to the conflict between israel and the shiite militia hezbollah. there is no published airline schedule that will inform me when the war will end, if it ends. i can’t figure out if my house will be standing, if amioun will still be on the map-recall that the family house was destroyed once before. i can’t figure out whether the war is going to degenerate into something even more sever looking into the outcome of the war, with all my relatives, friends, and property exposed to it, i face true limits of knowledge. can someone explain to me why i should care about subatomic particles that, anyway, converge to a gaussian?

people can’t predict how long they will be happy with recently acquired objects, how long their marriages will last, how their new jobs will turn out, yet it’s subatomic particles that they cite s “limits of prediction.” they’re ignoring a mammoth standing in front of them in favor of matter even a microscope would not allow them to see.

– –

these people are professionally employed (philosophers) in the business of questioning what we take for granted; they are trained to argue about the existence of god(s), the definition of truth, the redness of red, the meaning of meaning, the difference between the semantic theories of truth, conceptual and nonconceptual representations… yet they believe blindly in the stock market, and the stock market, and in the abilities of their pension plan manager.

i conclude part three by reiterating that my antidote to black swans is precisely to be noncommoditized in my thinking. but beyond avoiding being a sucker, this attitude lends itself to a protocol of how to act – no ow to think, but how to convert knowledge into action and figure out what knowledge is worth.

 I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule.

..not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking.

The center of the problem is that none of them knew the center of the problem.

the center of the problem

Mother Nature does not limit the interactions between entities; it just limits the size of its units.

small is 

there is generally no such thing as a reachable long run except as a mathematical construct to solve equations; to assume a long run in a complex system, you need to also assume that nothing new will emerge. takes place in the preasymptote, not in some Platonic long run, ..

..mysteries that you cannot possibly clear up without adding a dimension, no matter how sophisticated you may get.

need to get to deep, to x-d ness

Such was the fate of knowledge all these centuries, when it was locked in two dimensions too simplistic to be of any use outside of classrooms.

The simplified, philistinified, academified, and glorified notion of “evidence” becomes useless.

proof ness – with nothing to prove ness

One of the most common (but useless) comments I hear is that some solutions can come from “robust statistics.” I wonder how using these techniques can create information where there is none.

..absence of evidence does not line up with evidence of absence.

absence of evidence

while reading antifragile – this tweet from Rupert Read:… Turn to p9 of new issue of GREEN WORLD, to see my article on the work @nntaleb and I are doing on precaution.

a call to –

end our love affair with evidence.

but rather instead.. use our heads/guts/precaution. be alive to and embrace uncertainty.

there is never nothing going on, evidence ness

..iatrogenics, i.e., the study of the harm caused by the healer,.. professionals can cause harm for such a long time in the name of knowledge and get away with it.

this is ridiculous ness

..every time there is a problem, we do the Soviet-Harvard thing of more regulation, which makes investment bankers, lawyers, and former-regulators-turned-Wall-Street-advisers rich.

too much ness

My problem has been that people can accept the role of rare events, agree with me, and still use these metrics, which leads me to wonder if this is a psychological disorder.

indeed. we do need rehab.

.. linking bits and pieces of research by people who labor apart from one another and miss on connections.

on doing research.. or more simply.. on listening/learning… in public.. but within a chamber ness – where you can think/focus  .. keep a bit of distance from the shiny.. in order to see clearer..

..lognormal superficially resembles the fractal..

..introduction of the lognormal was a very bad compromise, but a way to conceal the flaws of the Gaussian.


much of the following also here: antifragile [taleb antifragile law]

antifragile defn

Published on Jan 9, 2013

Radical philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb offers a blueprint for how to live – and thrive – in a world we don’t understand, and which is too uncertain for us to even try to predict.


if you have more upside than downside you are antifragile

become robust by forcing yourself to become poor every morning

your body loves randomness

never ask a dr what you should do, ask what he/she would do if they were you

i don’t want to know what you predict – i want to know what you do

robustness is when mistakes are small

a lot of our policy making is trying to iron out the downside –  Rohan Silva

really getting behind angel investment – ie: tax breaks for angel investors   – –  Rohan Silva

respect for failure – for the sake of all

switzerland as a bottom up – local (neighborhood) dictatorial – most successful for uncertainty – ie: mayors doing better than big govt..

Ben Barber ness

the nation state is something invented to the war

to aim for resilience – to be ok to be safe  – you have to aim for risk taking – that benefits you more






if you’re uprooting religion – better be certain you are replacing it with something better – so far we have been fooled


2013 – at google authors – on antifragile

the opposite of fragile cannot possibly be robust

fragile does not like disorder – opposite is something that does like disorder

fragility and antifragility are things i can measure. i can’t measure risk.

fragile – benefits are small – harm is large

antifragile – harm is small – big variations are positive

once you link fragility to volatility you can do a lot of things

is fragile something that doesn’t like a 2nd order effect

any system based on prediction is going to blow up

if you’re more in up situations than down ones – randomness doesn’t bother you – Seneca – then you’re antifragile

small has more means to survive (local)



book links to amazon

– – – –

antifragile notes

triad: fragile (uncertainty/things break me) – robust (i can endure stuff) – antifragile (uncertainty/things make me)

…we need a mechanism by which the system regenerates itself continuously by using, rather than suffering from, random events, unpredictable shocks, stressors, and volatility.

mechanism simple enough.. and self-organizing/perpetuating/rhizomatic enough

We know more than we think we do, a lot more than we can articulate. If our formal systems of thought denigrate the natural, and in fact we don’t have a name for antifragility, and fight the concept whenever we use our brains, it does not mean that our actions neglect it. Our perceptions and intuitions, as expressed in deeds, can be superior to what we know and tabulate, discuss in words, and teach in a classroom.

apophatic (what cannot be explicitly said, or directly described, in our current vocabulary)

jaron on words

Artificial, man-made mechanical and engineering contraptions with simple responses are complicated, but not “complex,” as they don’t have interdependencies.

.. the crux of complex systems, those with interacting parts, is that they convey information to these component parts through stressors, or thanks to these stressors: your body gets information about the environment not through your logical apparatus, your intelligence and ability to reason, compute, and calculate, but through stress, via hormones or other messengers we haven’t discovered yet.

Had Prozac been available last century, Baudelaire’s “spleen,” Edgar Allan Poe’s moods, the poetry of Sylvia Plath, the lamentations of so many other poets, everything with a soul would have been silenced.

Peter Moskowitz  ness..

..touristification castrates systems and organisms that like uncertainty by sucking randomness out of them to the last drop—while providing them with the illusion of benefit. The guilty parties are the education system, planning the funding of teleological scientific research, the French baccalaureate, gym machines, etc.

If you are not a washing machine or a cuckoo clock—in other words, if you are alive—something deep in your soul likes a certain measure of randomness and disorder.

If every trial provides you with information about what does not work, you start zooming in on a solution—so every attempt becomes more valuable, more like an expense than an error.

story board ness – findings in failings

 The incompressibility of the lag is central and unavoidable. Organisms can only have nonanticipative strategies—hence nature can only be nonpredictive.

lag time

..“volatility” comes from volare, “to fly” in Latin.

..we hurt systems with the very best of intentions by playing conductor.

Where simplifications fail, causing the most damage, is when something nonlinear is simplified with the linear as a substitute. That is the most common Procrustean bed.

line of best fit ness

..having a mechanism for letting it run its natural course,..

..change of regime, from chaos to order, did not take place by removing chaos, but by adding random, ..

.. the thinker lacking a word for “blue” is handicapped; not the doer.

Lanier again..

..costs associated with fixing things that one should leave alone.

..medical error still currently kills between three times (as accepted by doctors) and ten times as many people as car accidents in the United States. It is generally accepted that harm from doctors—not including risks from hospital germs—accounts for more deaths than any single cancer.

Pharma plays the game of concealed and distributed iatrogenics, and it has been growing. It is easy to assess iatrogenics when the surgeon amputates the wrong leg or operates on the wrong kidney, or when the patient dies of a drug reaction. But ..

..when you medicate a child for an imagined or invented psychiatric disease, say, ADHD or depression, instead of letting him out of the cage, the long-term harm is largely unaccounted for.

..we need to avoid being blind to the natural antifragility of systems, their ability to take care of themselves, and fight our tendency to harm and fragilize them by not giving them a chance to do so.

usefully preoccupied ness

Few understand that procrastination is our natural defense, letting things take care of themselves and exercise their antifragility; it results from some ecological or naturalistic wisdom, ..

.. the best way to mitigate interventionism is to ration the supply of information, as naturalistically as possible.

perhaps via giving everyone the luxury of something else to do.. [much like the problem of how to mitigate privacy.. no?]

Governments are wasting billions of dollars on attempting to predict events that are produced by interdependent systems and are therefore not statistically understandable at the individual level.

this is ridiculous. not.

.. not just money wasted but the construction of a false confidence based on an erroneous focus.

why we need to hit the pause button. change could happen overnight.. if we all woke up to this simple need to re-focus.

What makes life simple is that the robust and antifragile don’t have to have as accurate a comprehension of the world as the fragile—and they do not need forecasting.

simple ness. enough already on each heart. all we need. no prep ness.

Not seeing a tsunami or an economic event coming is excusable; building something fragile to them is not.

This entire heritage of thinking, grounded in the sentence “An agent does not move except out of intention for an end,” is where the most pervasive human error lies, compounded by two or more centuries of the illusion of unconditional scientific understanding. This error is also the most fragilizing one.

The rational flâneur is someone who, unlike a tourist, makes a decision at every step to revise his schedule, so he can imbibe things based on new information, ..

The flâneur is not a prisoner of a plan. Tourism, actual or figurative, is imbued with the teleological illusion; it assumes completeness of vision and gets one locked into a hard-to-revise program, while the flâneur continuously—and, what is crucial, rationally—modifies his targets as he acquires information.

Optionality will take us many places, but at the core, an option is what makes you antifragile and allows you to benefit from the positive side of uncertainty.

.. intelligence makes you discount antifragility and ignore the power of optionality.

This kind of sum I’ve called in my vernacular “f*** you money”—a sum large enough to get most, if not all, of the advantages of wealth (the most important one being independence and the ability to only occupy your mind with matters that interest you) but not its side effects,..

luxury ness

.. you will never get to know yourself-your real preferences-unless you face options and choices.

The history of medicine is littered with the strange sequence of discovery of a cure followed, much later, by the implementation—as if the two were completely separate ventures, the second harder, much harder, than the first. Just taking something to market requires struggling against a collection of naysayers, administrators, empty suits, formalists, mountains of details that invite you to drown, and one’s own discouraged mood on occasion. In other words, to identify the option (again, there is this option blindness). This is where all you need is the wisdom to realize what you have on your hands.

implementation: a people experiment.

..the simpler and more obvious the discovery, the less equipped we are to figure it out by complicated methods. The key is that the significant can only be revealed through practice.

the little prince – via heart

..both governments and universities have done very, very little for innovation and discovery, precisely because, in addition to their blinding rationalism, they look for the complicated, the lurid, the newsworthy, the narrated, the scientistic, and the grandiose, rarely for the wheel on the suitcase.

As we saw with the stories of Thales and the wheel, antifragility (thanks to the asymmetry effects of trial and error) supersedes intelligence. But some intelligence is needed. From our discussion on rationality, we see that all we need is the ability to accept that what we have on our hands is better than what we had before—in other words, to recognize the existence of the option (or “exercise the option” as people say in the business, that is, take advantage of a valuable alternative that is superior to what precedes it, with a certain gain from switching from one into the other, the only part of the process where rationality is required).

.. this ability to use the option given to us by antifragility is not guaranteed: things can be looking at us for a long time. We saw the gap between the wheel and its use. Medical researchers call such lag the “translational gap,” the time difference between formal discovery and first implementation, which, if anything, owing to excessive noise and academic interests, has been shown by Contopoulos-Ioannidis and her peers to be lengthening in modern times.

lag/gap time

.. it is downright irrational if one holds on to an old technology that is not naturalistic at all yet visibly harmful, or when the switch to a new technology (like the wheel on the suitcase) is obviously free of possible side effects that did not exist with the previous one. And resisting removal is downright incompetent and criminal (as I keep saying, removal of something non-natural does not carry long-term side effects; it is typically iatrogenics-free)

dear Ed (and all other sectors) … time for another way

.. few want to jeopardize their jobs and reputation for the sake of change.

we can’t not. revolution. Brand.

With every trial one gets closer to something, assuming an environment in which one knows exactly what one is looking for.

rather than obsessing the bettering of efficiency..

We can, from the trial that fails to deliver, figure out progressively where to go.

pivots via findings in failings.. esp if in the shadows and can keep focused.

Nobody discusses the possibility of the birds’ not needing lectures—and nobody has any incentive to look at the number of birds that fly without such help from the great scientific establishment.

So the illusion grows and grows, with government funding, tax dollars, swelling (and self-feeding) bureaucracies in Washington all devoted to helping birds fly better.

this is ridiculous.. ness

With astonishing regularity, greed is seen as something (a) new and (b) curable. A Procrustean bed approach; we cannot change humans as easily as we can build greed-proof systems, and nobody thinks of simple solutions.1

another way. getting back a culture of trust. money/credentials as tech/trees keeping us from seeing the forest.

We are suckers for the sophisticated.

.. let us call the green lumber fallacy the situation in which one mistakes a source of necessary knowledge—the greenness of lumber—for another, less visible from the outside, less tractable, less narratable.

People with too much smoke and complicated tricks and methods in their brains start missing elementary, very elementary things. Persons in the real world can’t afford to miss these things; otherwise they crash the plane. Unlike researchers, they were selected for survival, not complications. So I saw the less is more in action:

The difference between a narrative and practice—the important things that cannot be easily narrated—lies mainly in optionality, the missed optionality of things. The “right thing” here is typically an antifragile payoff. And my argument is that you don’t go to school to learn optionality, but the reverse: to become blind to it.

As Yogi Berra said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.”

Accordingly, wisdom you learn from your grandmother should be vastly superior (empirically, hence scientifically) to what you get from a class in business school (and, of course, considerably cheaper). My sadness is that we have been moving farther and farther away from grandmothers.

Experimentation can make people much more careful than theories.

There is a body of know-how that was transmitted from master to apprentice, and transmitted only in such a manner—with degrees necessary as a selection process or to make the profession more respectable, or to help here and there, but not systematically. And the role of such formal knowledge will be overappreciated precisely because it is highly visible.

shiny ness – the little prince

The process remained self-directed and unpredictable at every step. And the great fallacy is to make it sound irrational—the irrational resides in not seeing a free option when it is handed to us.

Roger Martin – what is ridiculous ness

.. the players somehow lost the zest for bricolage, the hunger for trial and error.

.. uninhibited doer..

Visibly the money should go to the tinkerers, the aggressive tinkerers who you trust will milk the option.

..since you cannot forecast collaborations and cannot direct them, you cannot see where the world is going. All you can do is create an environment that facilitates these collaborations, and lay the foundation for prosperity.

spaces of permission with nothing to prove

.. if you can say something straightforward in a complicated manner with complex theorems, even if there is no large gain in rigor from these complicated equations, people take the idea very seriously.

oh my math..

..the more nonlinear the response, the less relevant the average, ..

ie: people’s curiosities.. so why spend 7 hrs a day, 12+ years – averaging that..

knowledge grows by subtraction much more than by addition

one small observation can disprove a statement, while millions can hardly confirm it, ..

Steve Jobs: “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are…”

Paul Valéry once wrote: que de choses il faut ignorer pour agir—how many things one should disregard in order to act.

.. if you have more than one reason to do something …. just don’t do it. it does not mean that one reason is better than two, just that by invoking more than one reason you are trying to convince yourself to do something.

Everything in nature is fractal, jagged, and rich in detail, though with a certain pattern. The smooth, by comparison, belongs to the class of Euclidian geometry we study in school, simplified shapes that lose this layer of wealth. Alas, contemporary architecture is smooth, even when it tries to look whimsical. What is top-down is generally unwrinkled (that is, unfractal) and feels dead.

fractal thinking —-> mindfulness

Again, we have the machine-organism dichotomy: to her the city is an organism, for Moses it is a machine to be improved upon.

Jane Jacobs

.. no one becomes a prophet in his own land..

.. and the same punishment inflicted on those able to understand things others don’t.

Recall the inability we saw in Chapter 2 to learn from past behavior. The problem with lack of recursion in learning—lack of second-order thinking—is as follows. If those delivering some messages deemed valuable for the long term have been persecuted in past history, one would expect that there would be a correcting mechanism, that intelligent people would end up learning from such historical experience so those delivering new messages would be greeted with the new understanding in mind. But nothing of the sort takes place.

.. if you believe that what will work and do well is going to be a new idea that others did not think of, what we commonly call “innovation,” then you would expect people to pick up on it and have a clearer eye for new ideas without too much reference to the perception of others. But they don’t: something deemed “original” tends to be modeled on something that was new at the time but is no longer new, so being an Einstein for many scientists means solving a similar problem to the one Einstein solved when at the time Einstein was not solving a standard problem at all.

..the very idea of being an einstein in physics is no longer original. … scientist trying to be new in a standard way…. focus on evidence.. (which means not ne)

a different experiment

Metric-lowering drugs are particularly vicious because of a legal complexity. The doctor has the incentive to prescribe it because should the patient have a heart attack, he would be sued for negligence; but the error in the opposite direction is not penalized at all, as side effects do not appear at all as being caused by the medicine.

.. there is a marked bias in favor of treatment, even when it brings more harm, because the legal system favors intervention.

.. bureaucrats (whether in govt or large corps) live in a system of rewards based on narratives, “tawk,” and the opinion of others, w/ job eval and peer reviews – in other words, what we call marketing.

.. institutions block evolution with bailouts and statism.

our mission is to make talk less cheap.

my childhood role model was the french adventurer and writer andre malraux. he imbued his writings with his own risk taking: malraux was a school dropout – while extremely well read – who became an adventurer in asia in his twenties…….. he just could not bear the idea of a writer being an intellectual. but unlike hemingway, who was mostly into image building, he was the real thing. and he never engaged in small talk..

the system does not give researchers the incentive to be a malraux.

i believe that forcing researchers to eat their won cooking whenever possible solves a serious problem in science. take this simple heuristic – does the scientific researcher whose ideas are applicable to the real world apply his ideas to his daily life? if so, take him seriously. otherwise, ignore him.  … more sufficient evidence than thousands of citations.

Anything one needs to market heavily is necessarily either an inferior product or an evil one. And it is highly unethical to portray something in a more favorable light than it actually is. definition, what is being marketed is necessarily inferior, otherwise it would not be advertised.

.. marketing beyond conveying information is insecurity.

.. never trust the words of a man who is not free.

.. my experience is that most journalists, professional academics, and other in similar phony professions don’t read original sources, but each other, largely because they need to figure out the consensus before making a pronouncement.

The fooled-by-data effect is accelerating. There is a nasty phenomenon called “Big Data” in which researchers have brought cherry-picking to an industrial level.

Science must not be a competition; it must not have rankings—we can see how such a system will end up blowing up. Knowledge must not have an agency problem.

Departments need to teach something so students get jobs, even if they are teaching snake oil—this got us trapped in a circular system in which everyone knows that the material is wrong but nobody is free enough or has enough courage to do anything about it.

.. i am convinced that a single person with courage can bring down a collective composed of wimps.

it is hard to find people knowledgeable and confident enough to like to extract the essence of things, instead of nitpicking.

Education, in the sense of the formation of character, personality, and acquisition of true knowledge, likes disorder; label-driven education and educators abhor disorder.

tony gives nero 20 mill to spend at his discretion on was to be a secret mission; noble of course, but secret. and, or course, vague. and dangerous. it was the best compliment nero ever got from tony: trusting that nero would be able to read his mind.  – which he did.

from notes:

Agency and iatrogenics: Just a random example: “Surgeons do more operations if they’re on the board of surgery centers,” June 22, 2012, “The Daily Stat,” Harvard Business Review.

.. if antifragility is a built-in process that permits some individual entities to stand out from the bulk in a challenging situation, thereby improving the fate of the whole, it would illustrate the implementation of a process that gathers and utilises information.

.. like pronouncing that someone who has just spent a decade in a sterilized room is in “great health”—when he is the most vulnerable.

Ed ness. on losing our gut wisdom. Munir Fasheh ness.

city states: .. Ben Barber et al.. semiautonomous cities.. mayors are better than presidents at dealing with trash collection – and less likely to drag us into war.

Something that is obvious to cabdrivers and grandmothers disappears inside university hallways.

The obsession with measurement started with the right places, and progressively invaded the wrong ones.

When measurement errors are prohibitively large, we should not be using the word “measure.

maps: via jean -louis, … as a mapmaker, i learned a long time ago that the key to good mapmaking is precisely the info you choose to leave out. i have made numerous clients notice that if a map is too literal and precise, it confuses people.

smd – koran – property of god as perfection. only imperfect mortals can improve, therefore need antifragility to try to improve.

Gladwell (2009): if you totted up all his hospital bills for the ten yrs that he had been on the streets – as well as substance – abuse-treatment costs, doctors’ fees, and other expenses – murray barr probably ran up a medical bill as large as anyone in the state of nevada. it cost us one million dollars not to do something about murray, obryan said.

simplicity and steve jobs: simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. but it’s worth it in the ed because once you get there, you can move mountains. – business week, may 25, 1998

math heavy from notes (as i’m about to lose access to the book):

if these parameters need to be estimated, with an error, then the derivations need to be written differently and, of course, we would have no paper—and no Markowitz paper, no blowups, no modern finance, no fragilistas teaching junk to students.… Economic models are extremely fragile to assumptions, in the sense that a slight alteration in these assumptions can, as we will see, lead to extremely consequential differences in the results. And, to make matters worse, many of these models are “back-fit” to assumptions, in the sense that the hypotheses are selected to make the math work, which makes them ultrafragile and ultrafragilizing.

Say a government estimates unemployment for the next three years as averaging 9 percent; it uses its econometric models to issue a forecast balance B of a two-hundred-billion deficit in the local currency. But it misses (like almost everything in economics) that unemployment is a stochastic variable. Employment over a three-year period has fluctuated by 1 percent on average. make small errors, design makes large ones. So the imposition of Ricardo’s insight-turned-model by some social planner would lead to a blowup; letting tinkering work slowly would lead to efficiency—true efficiency. The role of policy makers should be to, via negativa style, allow the emergence of specialization by preventing what hinders the process.

As a generalization of the deficit/employment example used in the previous section, say we are using f, a simple function: f(x|ᾱ), where ᾱ is supposed to be the average expected input variable, where we take φ as the distribution of α over its domain , . The philosopher’s stone: The mere fact that α is uncertain (since it is estimated) might lead to a bias if we perturbate from the inside (of the integral), i.e., stochasticize the parameter deemed fixed. Accordingly, the convexity bias is easily measured as the difference between (a) the function f integrated across values of potential α, and (b) f estimated for a single value of α deemed to be its average. The convexity bias (philosopher’s stone) ωA becomes:1

The central equation: Fragility is a partial philosopher’s stone below K, hence ωB the missed fragility is assessed by comparing the two integrals below K in order to capture the effect on the left tail: which can be approximated by an interpolated estimate obtained with two values of α separated from a midpoint by ∆α its mean deviation of α and estimating Note that antifragility ωC is integrating from K to infinity. We can probe ωB by point estimates of f at a level of X ≤ K.. which leads us to the fragility detection heuristic (Taleb, Canetti, et al., 2012). In particular, if we assume that ω´B(X) has a constant sign for X ≤ K, then ωB(K) has the same sign. The detection heuristic is a perturbation in the tails to probe fragility, by checking the function ω´B(X) at any level X.

– – –

Nassim tweets – just as i finish antigragile:

@michaelpollan Hi there; finally our Precautionary Principle with Application to GMOs is on arXiv.

We present a non-naive version of the Precautionary (PP) that allows us to avoid paranoia and paralysis by confining precaution to specific domains and problems. PP is intended to deal with uncertainty and risk in cases where the absence of evidence and the incompleteness of scientific knowledge carries profound implications and in the presence of risks of “black swans”, unforeseen and unforeseable events of extreme consequence.



– – – –

tweeted by Nassim:

The easiest proof of: *what is fragile is what doesn’t like volatility/uncertainty/variability*, illustrated.


find/follow Nassim:

link twitter

wikipedia small

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Arabic: نسيم نيقولا نجيب طالب‎, alternatively Nessim or Nissim, born 1960) is a Lebanese-American essayist, scholar and statistician, whose work focuses on problems of randomness, probability and uncertainty. His 2007 book The Black Swan was described in a review by the Sunday Times as one of the twelve most influential books since World War II.

Taleb is a bestselling author, and has been a professor at several universities, currently Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering. He has also been a practitioner of mathematical finance, a hedge fund manager, a derivatives trader, and is currently a scientific adviser at Universa Investments and the International Monetary Fund.

He criticized the risk management methods used by the finance industry and warned about financial crises, subsequently profiting from the late-2000s financial crisis. He advocates what he calls a “black swan robust” society, meaning a society that can withstand difficult-to-predict events. He proposes “antifragility” in systems, that is, an ability to benefit and grow from a certain class of random events, errors, and volatility as well as “convex tinkering” as a method of scientific discovery, by which he means that option-like experimentation outperforms directed research.


Taleb considers himself less a businessman than an epistemologist of randomness, and says that he used trading to attain independence and freedom from authority.


His book The Bed of Procrustes summarizes the central problem: “we humans, facing limits of knowledge, and things we do not observe, the unseen and the unknown, resolve the tension by squeezing life and the world into crisp commoditized ideas”.

Relatedly, he also believes that universities are better at public relations and claiming credit than generating knowledge. He argues that knowledge and technology are usually generated by what he calls “stochastic tinkering” rather than by top-down directed research.


Taleb’s writings discuss the error of comparing real-world randomness with the “structured randomness” in quantum physics where probabilities are remarkably computable and games of chance like casinos where probabilities are artificially built. Taleb calls this the “Ludic fallacy“. His argument centers on the idea that predictive models are based on Plato’s Theory of Forms, gravitating towards mathematical purity and failing to take some key ideas into account, such as: the impossibility of possessing all relevant information, that small unknown variations in the data can have a huge impact, and flawed theories/models that are based on empirical data and that fail to consider events that have not taken place but could have taken place. Discussing the Ludic fallacy in The Black Swan, he writes, “The dark side of the moon is harder to see; beaming light on it costs energy. In the same way, beaming light on the unseen is costly in both computational and mental effort.


Taleb wrote in the second edition of The Black Swan that he had a session in 2008 with statisticians in which the hostility changed:

I found out that telling researchers “This is where your methods work very well” is vastly better than telling them “This is what you guys don’t know.” So when I presented to what was until then the most hostile crowd in the world, members of the American Statistical Association, a map of the four quadrants, and told them: your knowledge works beautifully in these three quadrants, but beware of the fourth one, as this is where the Black Swans breed, I received instant approval, support, offers of permanent friendship, refreshments (Diet Coke), invitations to come present at their sessions, even hugs(…) They tried to convince me that statisticians were not responsible for these aberrations, which come from people in the social sciences who apply statistical methods without understanding them.


The Penguin book cover writes that Taleb “refuses all awards and honours as they debase knowledge by turning it into competitive sport”. Though a non-smoker, Taleb suffered from throat cancer in the mid-1990s, which he overcame. He has stated that his major hobby is “teasing people who take themselves and the quality of their knowledge too seriously and those who don’t have the guts to sometimes say: ‘I don’t know …'” Some reporters have commented that information about his personal life is difficult to extract, though Taleb appears to enjoy being in the limelight. Others find him more talkative: Malcolm Gladwell, inWhat the Dog Saw, wrote: “We would have lunches that would last for hours. The delight I took in his company was offset only by the dread I felt at the prospect of transcribing all those hours of tapes.”


from black swan (wikipedia):

Taleb asserts:

What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with the following three attributes.

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

I stop and summarize the triplet: rarity, extreme ‘impact’, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability. A small number of Black Swans explains almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives.


The main idea in Taleb’s book is not to attempt to predict black swan events, but to build robustness against negative ones that occur and be able to exploit positive ones.


One problem, labeled the ludic fallacy by Taleb, is the belief that the unstructured randomness found in life resembles the structured randomness found in games.

Taleb said “I don’t particularly care about the usual. If you want to get an idea of a friend’s temperament, ethics, and personal elegance, you need to look at him under the tests of severe circumstances, not under the regular rosy glow of daily life. Can you assess the danger a criminal poses by examining only what he does on an ordinary day? Can we understand health without considering wild diseases and epidemics? Indeed the normal is often irrelevant. Almost everything in social life is produced by rare but consequential shocks and jumps; all the while almost everything studied about social life focuses on the “normal,” particularly with “bell curve” methods of inference that tell you close to nothing. Why? Because the bell curve ignores large deviations, cannot handle them, yet makes us confident that we have tamed uncertainty. Its nickname in this book is GIF, Great Intellectual Fraud.”


Published on May 24, 2014

An ETH sponsored meeting and debate between Nassim Taleb and Didier Sornette. Edited to eliminate the parts of the conversation not involving either but otherwise comprehensive.
A “diplomatic debate” is defined by Taleb as a conversation in which one looks for synthesis (as opposed to one in which one is trying, as in war, to win the argument, as with political debates). Clearly this type of debate only works when the two parties have mutual respect for each other.

Sornette vs. Taleb Diametrically Opposite Approaches to Risk & Predictability


Nassim and Daniel K feb 2013:

Nassim Taleb and Daniel Kahneman discusses Antifragility at NYPL.mp4

16 min – first mistake – mistaking something organic for engineered product – nnt

my sense is people by and large prefer robustness to antifragility.. what you are advocating is not intuitive – it fits you very well – you can afford to be antifragile – not many people do – not many people would like to – you have a system in which you think probability plays a very little role –  dk

decentralized (govt) makes a lot of mistakes.. bother you but not kill you.. centralized looks smooth, but if it makes even just a couple mistakes.. bad – nnt

25 min – this turkey life is something people aspire to.. life w/o worry. you (nnt) put a lot of stress on large events that are very rare. you bring your own life stories.. of wealth. you have it set up so that in some sense it was predictable.. you left yourself open from a very large positive while preventing your losses. the view for most people – a mechanism that makes us extremely sensitive to the small losses.. in a way that might not be compensated by the extreme wear. – dk

dk’s prospect theory – if you make a million – do it over several yrs.. if you’re going to lose it – lose it all at once – nnt on dk thinking.. and people still don’t get that point

what you’re prescribing goes against the grain of prospect theory. dk

i think the opposite – people try to invent the narrative that the black swan will never happen – nnt

30 min – transfer of antifragility – a lot of risk hiding – nnt

31 min – you call these people ie: charlatans – but they are quite popular and in demand – dk

we have the problem of the people predicting not being the ones that would be harmed by the prediction – nnt

35 min – my idea is to build a society that can forecast errors.. how.. 1. robust/less govt debt (when you have debt you have to precise about future 2. decentralization 3. elimination of moral hazard

the implications of your argument is acostly – there is a cost – dk

38 min – -they are hugely important. we have this obsession with eliminating small stressors/risks at the expense of large risks … we’ve tried to make the right comfortable.. but we deny the large risk.

trying to take care of the blindness we have today (because we’ve protected ourselves from stressors) – where in the past – the environment provided the stressors.. nnt

41 min – a system that does not convert stressors into fuel/benefit is doomed – nnt

42 min – i keep going back to the same point – this is really not what people want to do. we do like the constant temperature. you are making a point that is true and deep.. we are made for variability. and to benefit from stresses.. but we are also designed to avoid stresses.. – dk

to hate randomness.. because we’re not fine tuned for such subtelty. the same way we think stressors are bad when in fact – big stressors are bad – small stressors are beneficial – nnt

actually – we feel more pain for very little pain and it doesn’t get worst proportionately. in fact – we aren’t designed for what you want. dk

except for religion. religions force you to fast.. force you to have variability. rituals are there to help us cope.. so we have had mechanisms to deal with abundance. – nnt

Nassim really changed the way i look at the world by making me realize the unpredictability… extreme events dominating what actually happens in our lives. huge impact on how i think about uncertainty. the skepticism about professional predictions.. 2 personalities: are part of you.. nero and fat tony  – neither take nonsense and are irreverent. you are more rude than you need to be to economists. but there is something really refreshing and very instructive in seeing a free spirit. …. so the – what are you going to do about it – antifragile may be the answer to that. – dk

how to live in a world we don’t understand – so i have to get to work.. danny told me – if you know the domains where there is unpredictability… you can’t just say – you have to take the horse to water and make it drink.  – nnt

model another way ness

so yes – the antifragile is a set of prescriptions. how when you become antifragile – you don’t need to predict. your recipe – avoiding the major crises.. the distinction between robustness and antifragility is giving up on the theory of prediction – dk

52 min – the philosopher’s storm: trial and error isn’t really trial and error – it’s trial with small error. small error and big upside. if you model it – to out preform trial and error – you need at least 1000 iq points. nobody gets close to that. so – you’d rather be antifragile than intelligent – anytime.  … antifragilitiy is harvesting the unintelligible. the problem is education. if we would have put bill gates through he we wouldn’t have had microsoft. education inhibits risk taking.- nnt

1:01 – my nightmare – living off debt – greenspan et al. question – there’s not way to resolve what they are doing? in 2009 we should have turned debt into equity. instead we turned private debt into govt debt- nnt

1:03 – question – how to help people take interest in antifragility – nnt

1:06 – nikhil – oh my – how to bring tinkering back into public ed.. answer – grades in the way – should rather focus on what interests them – move scholarship away from competitive sport.. less measurable. –  nnt

1:09 – i’m big on intuition.. my studies have been with the smaller amount of time it leads us to humorous results.. dk

1:11 – overprotect the weak, support the risk takers.. and ignore the middle  – nnt

1:17 – question – run out of gas in crisis.. i can picture robust.. but what would be an antifragile system? – answer: antifragile would be at the level of transportation not gas. we would have many alternative means to transportation – not just dependent on gas. – dk


Kenneth – from tweet on ed


dec 2014:

from jan/feb 2015 issue

..instead of trying in vain to predict such “Black Swan” events, it’s much more fruitful to focus on how systems can handle disorder..

Simply put, fragility is aversion to disorder. Things that are fragile do not like variability, volatility, stress, chaos, and random events, which cause them to either gain little or suffer.

For countries, fragility has five principal sources: a centralized governing system, an undiversified economy, excessive debt and leverage, a lack of political variability, and no history of surviving past shocks. Applying these criteria, the world map looks a lot different. Disorderly regimes come out as safer bets than commonly thought—and seemingly placid states turn out to be ticking time bombs.

On its face, centralization seems to make governments more stable. But that stability is an illusion.

Debt is perhaps the single most critical source of fragility.


Aramaic du Jour: the greeting marhaba comes from Mor (Lord) 7obo (Love).

Original Tweet:


exponentiality/fractality – for good and/or bad


10/1/15 6:10 AM
The dictatorship of the (stubborn) minority [those with Skin in the game]…
this links to 3 page pdf – copyrighted 2015 – says: can’t be disseminated or quoted

Science is wrong… by definition. What is currently the LEAST WRONG, Which is why De GrasseTyson makes me cringe.

Original Tweet:



The weight trainer Mark Rippletoe exhibits a remarkable understanding of complex systems. (
The Nautilus circuit consisted of 12 different exercises, each performed one after another in a specific order, one set to failure. It destroyed you. Thrashed you. Fried/barbequed/blasted/obliterated/murdered you. The Nautilus circuit humbled even the most arrogant former high school athlete, because working a small group of muscles at the edge of its capacity is difficult and uncomfortable. However, it did not make anybody stronger on anything besides Nautilus machines, where it worked for about 6 weeks. For someone who has not been training, anything works for about 6 weeks, because for novices who are unadapted to any physical work, anything will drive an adaptation and make you stronger. For about 6 weeks.
partial ing off parts of body..
sounds so like Ed…
ie:we re working against natural forces tat would otherwise aid us… gravity/whimsy
So, an interesting situation has been created over the past couple of decades, in that more people than ever in history are actively performing regular exercise, but the overwhelming majority are doing it ineffectively. Machine-based exercise does not work very well, and it’s important to understand why.
also right before.. on coaches just needing to know char height… so could be trained in 35 min.. so lots of pe uni students work there.. and lots of papers written in support

if it seems counter-intuitive that something physically hard enough to make you puke lacks the capacity to make you much stronger, …

don’t make you stronger for anything except that exercise


Machines use only one or two levers at a time, while the deadlift uses all of them. And all of them working together can move more weight than one or two of them in isolation.

Since your body as a whole can move heavier loads than individual muscles, strength training using barbells applies much more stress to the system — in a good way — than a machine which is only working one isolated muscle group at a time.

Science is not a body of knowledge; it is a rigorous process. Isn’t defined by “what we know” (fragile) but “How we want to know” (robut).
Where I explain why it is more rational to worry more about terrorism than death htting furniture. #pseudoempiricsm
[links to pdf download]
Original Tweet:

It is never irrational to worry about absorbing barriers at a systemic level.

your death isn’t the worst.


Now, about every time I discuss a precautionary principle, some overeducated pundit suggests that “we cross the street by taking risks”, so why worry so much about the system. …. the point is that my death is never the worst case scenario unless it correlates to that of others.

I have a finite shelf life, humanity should have an infinite duration.

Even worse, as I have shown in Antifragile, the fragility of the components is required to ensure the solidity of the system. If humans were immortals, they would go extinct from an accident, or from a gradual buildup of misfitness. But shorter shelf life for humans allows genetic changes to accompany the environment.

i don’t get this..agree w taleb on smaller and smaller ness of this… but not so much on benefit of fragility of man, ie: that he dies.. mortal.. in order to evolve into something better..

i think the smaller and smaller comes with each of us dying each day… rather than dying the one time we die.. much more exponential.. systemic..

whimsy as means listening to bigger voice – systemic voice

efficiencies/pathways.. may seem less risky.. at the moment.. and in short term.. but in long term… deafens us to the rhythm..

question. Why is it that education muddles brains? Simply knowing too much without the ability to eliminate modern junk degrades knowledge –the brain of that economist –otherwise intelligent –resembles that of a studio apartment in which the contents of my house with its entire library were crammed. Now try to find your way in it.


Which brings me to the value of mathematics: its value lies less in the computation, the numbers, than in the use of clear-cut definitions that avoid sloppiness of language. I see mathematics, particularly in probability, close to legal theory, where everything is as explicitly defined as possible. When things are well defined, their relations (or lack of) become immediately visibl

not following solidly…

reread last few pages.. or entire thing…

is he saying there is an absolute…?

if so… and/or… is he fractalizing same thing…?

and with domineering verbiage….

This chapter starts with the path dependent property. It will, simply lead us to the only rational –rigorous –definition of rationality I have found that doesn’t have contradictions in it. It will allow us to prove that some said “irrational” beliefs can be actually rational and some “rational” beliefs when subjected to formal examination aren’t so. But, mainly, it will allow us to understand the notion of precaution, the precautionary principle, and the very concept of wisdom in decision making.

Most of all it will prove that rationality is indistinguishable from precaution.

back to p 1


know it is only money –we are simplifying. We are assuming, for the purpose of this example, that you are in a simplified world in which the worst case is what happens to you and you only, and that you can define it the way you want, which you did here by expressing it in financial health. Every example assumes that its worst case is really the worst case. The next chapter will generalize and take broader and more realistic assumptions and layer worst-cases from the individual to the collective to the ecosystem.


Somehow your naïve use of accounting-style arithmetic needs to be suspended, unless you can improve it, when evaluating payof


[ok.. this is all over the place w/notes back and forth]

footnote bottom 2 left side…
wonder why it took so long.. 10s of 1000s of papers before the development of techniqes…

4 rt side …

we already see that wherever we have the smallest notion of ruin, the small defects in the analysis – ignoring the asymmetry – lead to terminal consequences.

thinking of band aid fixes… as seeming like so important because they are taking care of the now.. when they are actually killing us more than killing us.. thinking suicide and ecocide (6) ness..


it can help explain why they blow up without ever understanding the root causes…  some people responsible for risks, others for decisions…

on the need to go deep/systemic enough..

let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

for (blank)’s sake

a nother way

6 – right before you only.. left side
logic more robust than empirical..?

6 rt side..2nd para

your life has an upper bound, whether we know exactly what it is or not. Humanity doesn’t –hence the need for “sustainable” strategies.

6 chart

humanity isn’t renewable..?
we could at least have a do over..
i think we can renew it if we go deep enough…

perhaps – idiosyncracies as our glue….wondering what nntaleb thinks of ni

7 – last two paras before Aristotle

on risks that don’t go to ruin in systemic… and risks that do..

why we need to not be taking systemic ruin risks.. ie: people not being themselves…

Courage is when you sacrifice your own wellbeing for the sake of the survival of a layer higher than yours.

7 right side – right before mediocristan

don’t agree with need for human to be mortal… so that humanity can carry on.. how so..?

perhaps because I don’t believe our environ needs us to change our gene pool.. unless we account for getting back to us ness

natural gene pool and environ were meant for each other… meant to dance..

7 bottom right.. under merit vs extrem
not an either or is it..?… it’s our idiosyncrasies that renew/sustain the system…
if we let that dance.
and this.. I believe.. has never been practiced… so no empirical of it.. yet.
but once we model it.. will exponentially spread as it resonates with each soul…
top left 8
first line…

Mediocristan is thin-tailed, affects the individual without correlation to the collective.

can anything have no correlation (?) w/the system/collective….?
8 – 3rd para

a little bit of education is destructive. Journalists and social scientists are pathologically prone to such nonsense – particularly those who think that a regression and graph is a sophisticated way to approach a problem. Simply, they have been trained with fools for Mediocristan.



The only domains where must be literal are mathematized sciences. Problem is “scientism” where people are literal everywhere but science.
Original Tweet:

Stop focusing on the fake difference between “moderate” & “fundamentalists”. The only real diff is betw. *literalist* and nonliteral.
Where I show the diff betw decorative beliefs and nondecorative ones (literal). How the pope acts as an “atheist”.…

Michael Josefowicz (@toughLoveforx) tweeted at 6:10 AM – 10 Jan 2017 :

An Expert Called Lindy – Nassim Nicholas Taleb (

You can define a free person precisely as someone whose fate is not centrally or directly dependent on his peer assessment
there is something worse than peer-assessment: the bureaucratization of the process creates a class of new judges: university administrators, who have no clue what someone is doing except via external signals, become the actual arbiters.
ritualistic publishing game gradually maps less and less to real research
science of people ness

NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) tweeted at 7:13 PM – 1 Mar 2017 :

Skin in the game, almost finished (


Yaneer Bary-Yam (notes on his page) and Taleb on peace in syria


On Interventionistas and their Mental Defects

Excerpted from the preface of Skin in the Game


Most things that we believe were “invented” by universities were actually discovered by tinkering and later legitimized by some type of formalization. I have shown in Antifragile how the knowledge we get by tinkering, via trial and error, experience, and the workings of time, in other words, contact with the earth, is vastly superior to that obtained through reasoning, something universities have been very busy hiding from us.


Interventionistas don’t learn because they they are not the victims of their mistakes, and, as we saw with pathemata mathemata :

The same mechanism of transferring risk also impedes learning


NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) tweeted at 11:07 AM – 14 May 2017 :

@yaneerbaryam @IGUZM4N @RonPaul Well functioning markets REQUIRE absence of monopolies. Monopolies are often the result of government cronies/patronage

well functioning people require absence of markets are often result of measure/compare


NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) tweeted at 4:14 PM – 25 May 2017 :

The gist:
If you have the courage to put your intellectual integrity before your reputation, nothing can break you. (

For I have a single definition of success: you look in the mirror every evening, and wonder if you disappoint the person you were at 18, right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life.

rather.. age 5

Let him or her be the only judge; not your reputation, not your wealth, not your standing in the community, not the decorations on your lapel. If you do not feel ashamed, you are successful. All other definitions of success are modern constructions; fragile modern constructions.

Success requires absence of fragility…For almost all people I’ve met, external success came with increased fragility and a heightened state of insecurity

When there is fire, you will run faster than in any competition.

I am particularly allergic to people who like themselves to be surrounded by famous people,

When I read my bio I always feel it is that of another person: it describes what I did not what I am doing and would like to do.

I hesitate to give advice because every major single piece of advice I was given turned out to be wrong and I am glad I didn’t follow them. I was told to focus and I never did. I was told to never procrastinate and I waited 20 years for The Black Swan and it sold 3 million copies.