10 “Other” Things Nassim Taleb Can Teach Us

And now, right back to it.

A bullshit piece was published on Tuesday over at the Mises Institute called “What Nassim Taleb Can Teach Us.”

Let me just clear something up for the extraordinary number of people out there who seem to think that Taleb would be right at home in a roundtable discussion with, in no particular order, Socrates, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Thomas Hobbes, John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant, Albert Einstein, Thomas Aquinas, Plato, Aristotle, Leonardo, and Jesus. “What Nassim Taleb can teach us” is: some shit about prob and stats, and some useful things about risk management.

That’s it.

Period.

I still contend that Fooled By Randomness and, to a lesser extent, The Black Swan, should be required reading for entry level college prob and stats courses and probably for entry level philosophy courses as well. I keep a copy of Fooled By Randomness on my desk.

That said, if “delusions of grandeur” were a person, it would look like Taleb. There’s a fine line between “genius” and “insanity” and this motherfucker crossed it about two bestsellers ago.

Now, he’s gotten it in his head that populism anno 2017 can be traced directly to Antifragile, and amusingly, Steve Bannon has lent credence to this fantasy by making the book required reading for his underlings.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you have even an undergraduate degree in philosophy and/or political science, some chapters of Taleb’s books are simply laughable.

“That’s exactly what an idiot, pseudo-expert would say,” would be Taleb’s response.

See Taleb hates “experts” of all kinds. Especially those of the social science variety.

The only “expert” who isn’t, in Taleb’s mind, a “pseudo-expert” is Taleb himself. Because Taleb thinks Taleb is a real expert on quite literally everything.

Another thing to note about Taleb is that, to quote the post linked here at the outset, “he does not suffer fools gladly.” That’s a nice way of saying he’s fond of basically threatening people. But again, everyone is a “fool” in Taleb’s mind except Taleb himself, so really, he doesn’t “suffer” anyone “gladly.”

And that gets us back to a point we make all of the time about the alt-Right, which Taleb either wittingly or unwittingly (and no one is quite sure which yet) now leads ideologically. Namely that this is a group of fake ass tough guys. Or, to use Taleb parlance, “pseudo-tough guys.” They’re real hard when they’re acting for their fans but in real life they’re real soft. Trust me, I’ve been around them.

Coming full circle, here’s what Jeff Deist (who wrote the article cited above) says we can learn from Taleb:

  • Economics is lost, mired in a quicksand of predictive models that fail to predict and macro-analysis that fails to analyze.
  • Democratic politics is lost, ruined by bad actors with perverse incentives to burn capital rather than accumulate it.
  • And academia is lost, still stuck in a centuries-old model run by hopelessly sheltered PhDs.

Right. So basically everyone is “lost.” Except for Taleb. And maybe Jeff Deist, who says “Taleb gets all of this.”

Well, in the true spirit of adding to the debate, I wanted to add to old Jeff’s list of “things Nassim Taleb can teach us.” 

Here are a few off the top of my head, presented with no further comment..

**********

1. What kills Taleb makes you stronger. From a 2012 interview with Linda Geddes for New Scientist:

LG: How is antifragility different from the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”?
NNT: I look at it in terms of systems: Situations where what kills me makes others stronger, how the fragility of some parts of the system brings overall benefits.

2. Gyms are for people who are pussies that can’t carry water on their heads or don’t lift stones. From a 2012 interview with Linda Geddes for New Scientist:

LG: Can people apply antifragility to their lives?
NNT: In Africa, Asia, and the Americas people head-load water—gyms don’t stress your bones, nature does. I lift stones.

3. You should do deadlifts before tweeting because it makes you more “rigorous”. From Twitter:

4. Aquafina (and probably Dasani) don’t allow you to “harness” your inner-Taleb. And when you’re sick you shouldn’t go to the doctor, you should go to India instead and drink from puddles. From a 2012 interview with Linda Geddes for New Scientist:

LG: Do you apply these principles to your life?
NNT: I don’t go to the doctor except when I’m very ill, and when I go to India, I drink a drop of local water. Things like this harness the body’s antifragility.

5. If you’re a blogger and you challenge the whole “drinking drops of local water” idea, Taleb will be forced to sue you, make your life difficult, or both (depending on what his Twitter followers think). Via Twitter:

6. You should wear lifting shoes when you lift stones otherwise this guy will fucking kill you. From Twitter:

7. When evaluating employment opportunities, you should always ask yourself whether, in the event your boss physically assaults you, the attack can be absorbed and incorporated into your own Taleb-like powers. From a 2012 interview with Linda Geddes for New Scientist:

NNT: I pick profession[s] in which I am antifragile, because any attack makes me stronger.

8. If you’re Scandinavian, ride the Metro North, and “refuse to stop” using your cell phone in his presence, Taleb may have to choke you out – but in lieu of that, he’ll put you on blast on Twitter. From Twitter:

9. The only real question for economists is this: “do you fucking deadlift or do you fucking not?” From Twitter:

10. If you’re looking for “reliable accounts on Spanish gypsies,” you should find yourself a cave. From Twitter:

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Summed up visually…

Taleb

 

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4 thoughts on “10 “Other” Things Nassim Taleb Can Teach Us

  1. Thanks for the write-up. I was one of the people who saw the original article and didn’t know any better. What are your thoughts on this whole “Mises Institute” thing? Reading some of their articles makes me wonder if they’re idiot savants or just idiots.

    Like

  2. Rather than attacking the validity of his claims:

    Economics is lost, mired in a quicksand of predictive models that fail to predict and macro-analysis that fails to analyze.
    Democratic politics is lost, ruined by bad actors with perverse incentives to burn capital rather than accumulate it.
    And academia is lost, still stuck in a centuries-old model run by hopelessly sheltered PhDs.

    you assassinate his character. Gee, I’m convinced. No need to disprove each of those points, points which are validated by so many examples.

    Like

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