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The Nassim Taleb thread - Wutang - 02-07-2017 03:25 PM

NN Taleb has been mentioned several times on the forum and seems to be a favored thinker within our part of the internet. There's a couple of threads related to things he had written but not a general thread for him. I think he's been mentioned enough that there's sufficient warrant for a thread to them.

A lot of MSM has been focusing on Steve Bannon in the recent week. Politico did an article about this intellectual and literary influences and NN Taleb was mentioned as one of them. Taleb was interviewed and said he would "be on the first train to Washington" if he was invited for a visit.

Quote:Many political onlookers described Trump’s election as a “black swan” event: unexpected but enormously consequential. The term was popularized by Nassim Taleb, the best-selling author whose 2014 book Antifragile—which has been read and circulated by Bannon and his aides—reads like a user’s guide to the Trump insurgency.

It’s a broadside against big government, which Taleb faults for suppressing the randomness, volatility and stress that keep institutions and people healthy. “As with neurotically overprotective parents, those who are trying to help us are hurting us the most,” he writes. Taleb also offers a withering critique of global elites, whom he describes as a corrupt class of risk-averse insiders immune to the consequences of their actions: “We are witnessing the rise of a new class of inverse heroes, that is, bureaucrats, bankers, Davos-attending members of the I.A.N.D (International Association of Name Droppers), and academics with too much power and no real downside and/or accountability. They game the system while citizens pay the price.”

It might as well have been the mission statement of the Trump campaign. Asked in a phone interview this week whether he’s had meetings with Bannon or his associates, Taleb said he could not comment. “Anything about private meetings would need to come from them,” he said, though he noted cryptically he’s had “coffee with friends.” He has been supportive of Trump but does not define himself as a supporter per se, though he said he would “be on the first train” to Washington were he invited to the White House.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Hypno - 02-07-2017 04:28 PM

Taleb has a wharton mba and a PhD in management science. but what is really interesting is he studies the intersection of statistics, mathematics, and human behavior. he studies what interested him, not what fell into neat categories. its where these concepts intersect that little had been researched.

another interesting thing about him is that he was educated outside the U.S. and grew up in Lebanon so he is less subject to U.S. propoganda

Taleb also is a no B.S. guy. He's candid with his opinions, and loves to out phonies and psuedo intellectuals. He's very pro trump because everyone against trump is a psuedo intellectual. Trump may not be an intellectual but at least his ideas make sense.

if you want to read some Taleb, start with Fooled by Randomness which is very easy book to read. Black Swan is more famous but more like a textbook.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - SamuelBRoberts - 02-07-2017 05:35 PM

Taleb is famous for loving the deadlift.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Ocelot - 02-07-2017 05:50 PM

(02-07-2017 04:28 PM)Hypno Wrote:  if you want to read some Taleb, start with Fooled by Randomness which is very easy book to read. Black Swan is more famous but more like a textbook.

If there's only one Taleb book you read, it's got to be Antifragile in my opinion. That book is a real game-changer, and anybody here who hasn't read it really ought to. But Fooled by Randomness is definitely the shortest and easiest read if you don't have much time. Taleb's has definitely developed his ideas a lot since writing Fooled by Randomness, however.

Definitely one of the most original thinkers out there today.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - TooFineAPoint - 02-07-2017 11:13 PM

Love his method of going for long walks with one other intelligent person in order to be creative, think, and solve problems.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Thomas the Rhymer - 02-07-2017 11:30 PM

For the sake of completeness, here are all the other threads that are at least somewhat about Our Great Philosopher, Nassim Taleb:

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Le Siamois - 02-08-2017 07:32 AM

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - not-a-pua - 02-08-2017 08:05 AM

He also understands old dead languages. His IQ must be off the charts. Without being an autistic.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Menace - 02-08-2017 10:48 AM

One of my favorites. He wrote an important paper on what he called the minority rule, which really doesn't get enough attention. Essentially his point is that it can be mathematically shown that if you have a small intransigent minority, it's preferences will overtime become a majority and the majority will further believe that it was their idea.

For example, why is all orange juice kosher when the population of people who actually keep kosher is less than 1% in the US. Or why most meat in the U.K. is halal.

This also demonstrates that even if a small fraction of Muslims are "extreme" that is sufficient for them to foist their ideas on the population at large.

Another more mathematical paper he wrote is on p values, which are often used as a measure of significance. He showed that to have the significance people actually want the p values must be a factor of 10 smaller than what is commonly used. Since I think this is basically impossible in the social sciences because of the nature of the measurements and data, statistically significant social science work does not exist.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Lance McArthur - 02-08-2017 11:22 AM

Hard to pinpoint his political leanings, but he is definitely not a conservative let alone alt-right guy. In an interview he said that he was going vote for 3rd party candidate in the November election (probably Johnson) and from what I gain his antipathy for HRC is greater than his sympathy for Trump.

He said he likes Ralph Nader, because that is leftist politician who practices what he preaches as opposed to the DC establishment. At the same time, he seems to support Assad, the economic and political model of Switzerland and city states.

I like Taleb's writing and his way to look at the world is refreshing. A lot of it is bullshit, though. I thought he did rather poorly when attacking Steven Pinker, his advice on nutrition and lifting is often and his over-flated ego makes him sometimes painful to read.

But is he always amusing and thought-provoking, so props to him.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Wutang - 02-08-2017 11:27 AM

Good interview with Taleb where he talks about the rebellion against "faux-experts" who have plenty of academic/intellectual credentials that matter very little when it comes effective decisions in the real world. He also talks about why Trump has appeal to so many voters and how Obama rather then fixing problems in the economy has merely just tapered over it.‘Trump-makes-sense-to-a-grocery-store-owner’/article17109351.ece

Quote:Oh, absolutely! The last crisis [2008] hasn’t ended yet because they just delayed it. [Barack] Obama is an actor. He looks good, he raises good children, he is respectable. But he didn’t fix the economic system, he put novocaine [local anaesthetic] in the system. He delayed the problem by working with the bankers whom he should have prosecuted. And now we have double the deficit, adjusted for GDP, to create six million jobs, with a massive debt and the system isn’t cured. We retained zero interest rates, and that hasn’t helped. Basically we shifted the problem from the private corporates to the government in the U.S. So, the system remains very fragile.

Quote: Trump never ran for archbishop, so you never saw anything in his behaviour that was saintly, and that was fine. Whereas Obama behaved like the Archbishop of Canterbury, and was going to do good but people didn’t feel their lives were better. As I said, if it was a shopkeeper from Aleppo, or a grocery store owner in Mumbai, people would have liked them as much as Trump.

Quote:The intellectual class of no more than 2,00,000 people in the U.S. don’t represent everyone upset with Trump. The real problem is the ‘faux-expert problem’, one who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and assumes he knows what people think. An electrician doesn’t have that problem.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Wutang - 02-08-2017 11:30 AM

(02-08-2017 08:05 AM)not-a-pua Wrote:  He also understands old dead languages. His IQ must be off the charts. Without being an autistic.

He's referred to the fedora-intellectual types (think your typical Reddit commentator that "Fucking Love Science" and love to lick Degrasse Tyson's chocolate salty balls) as "autistics" in the past. His constant attacks against "IYIs" and the so called "intellectual" class are aimed at these Ivory Tower thinkers that are so removed from every day life that they have no idea how most people actually think or behave, hence their autistic like behavior.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Thomas the Rhymer - 02-08-2017 03:17 PM

Does anyone here understand his math papers? I've looked at them but I don't know what's going on.

Apparently, all his philosophy and thought are derived from his mathematical formulas. His writings are basically just setting down the logical conclusions, in words, of his mathematical calculations.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Wutang - 02-08-2017 04:12 PM

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - TheOllam - 02-08-2017 05:52 PM

From the "Intellectual Yet Idiot" post:

"The IYI pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand without ever realizing it is his understanding that may be limited."

"He thinks people should act according to their best interests and he knows their interests, particularly if they are “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class who voted for Brexit."

"More socially, the IYI subscribes to The New Yorker."

"He speaks of “equality of races” and “economic equality” but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver"

"Not only did he vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable and some such circular reasoning, but holds that anyone who doesn’t do so is mentally ill."

"The IYI has been wrong, historically, on Stalinism, Maoism, GMOs, Iraq, Libya, Syria, lobotomies, urban planning, low carbohydrate diets, gym machines, behaviorism, transfats, freudianism, portfolio theory, linear regression, Gaussianism, Salafism, dynamic stochastic equilibrium modeling, housing projects, selfish gene, election forecasting models, Bernie Madoff (pre-blowup) and p-values. But he is convinced that his current position is right."

"But a much easier marker: he doesn’t even deadlift."

[Image: 1*XZZ0IxbyE5fjhPms1aY7Ew.gif]

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Eklavya - 02-11-2017 03:29 AM

interesting interview of Taleb

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Isaac Jordan - 04-09-2017 11:46 PM

Excellent lecture by Taleb where he basically summarizes Antifragile:

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Wutang - 11-01-2017 09:00 PM

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - LowerCaseG - 11-01-2017 10:26 PM

I recommend econ talk podcasts with taleb as the guest.

Taleb's mentor was female.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Paracelsus - 11-02-2017 12:51 AM

Once again I find common concepts between the authors that this site recommends, though more out of synchronicity than anything else.

Taleb's concept of antifragility is in essence where something becomes more capable, robust, or resilient as a result of stressors, shocks, mistakes or failures.

This is basically the approach that Josh Waitzkin puts forward in his book The Art of Learning, which in turn is derived from a lot of decent sports psychology about the mental components of performance. Basically, most people are entity learners - they believe both skill and intellect are fixed across the lifespan. Thus when you have a gifted athlete or student who becomes accustomed to thinking they're good at something, then when that athlete/student runs into someone much stronger, it is a major blow to their ego and intellect. They are brittle. They are, in a word, fragile.

Contrast that with someone who believes that skill and intellect can be raised incrementally over time. They won't be as focused on big games, big tests, and won't be as crestfallen by a loss. Quite the opposite: consistent with the idea of antifragility, if they choose to view the loss as a learning opportunity, they'll be more inclined to analyse the reasons for their loss and build off them. Waitzkin probably never touched on the concept of antifragility before he wrote the book, but there's one line from the book that I think Taleb would probably approve of, in performance contexts: You should always come off a loss or an injury stronger than you were before the injury. That is, you become more capable, robust, and resilient because of mistakes. That is, you become antifragile.

I didn't really barge in to give an extended ad for Waitzkin's book, but I found it worth noting. Taleb describes antifragility: Waitzkin put it into practice in his competition life (and more generally in learning.)

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Alsos - 11-02-2017 09:24 AM

For those of us who are aphorism junkies, his Bed of Procrustes is a fun read.

Reasonably short. Entertainingly caustic.

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Wutang - 11-20-2017 03:06 PM

Two minds that have had big influence on our part of the internet meets:

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - RaccoonFace - 12-19-2017 06:56 PM

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Paracelsus - 01-15-2018 03:46 AM

Well, I managed to get a copy of Antifragile and started reading it properly, and right away I realised my previous post was inaccurate. I got it horribly wrong, confusing robustness and resilience with antifragility ... in my defence, a common error since there literally is no word in the English language (or any other) for antifragility. But he does have a very simple way of describing it, by reference to Greek myth.

Fragile = Damocles.
Robust = The Phoenix.
Antifragile = The Hydra.

Damocles is subject to massive harm if one small event changes in his life, i.e. the descent of the sword. The Phoenix is robust because if it burns down its own inherent qualities allow it to be restored to the same position it had previously. The Hydra is antifragile because harm makes it even more effective (cut off one head, two more appear to replace it). Antifragility welcomes harm because it always benefits from it on balance.

Also some important insights about human physiology already: constant low level stress hurts human beings because there is no opportunity to recover. This was precisely how Heracles defeated the hydra, overcame an antifragile organism: he cauterised the wound where the head had been cut off immediately, thus preventing the chance to recover.

Intermittent stress, on the other hand, followed by a recovery, allows the body to overcompensate, allows antifragility in. You have that all-important recovery time. This is probably a good argument for HIIT over long exercise periods and endurance. Also worth wondering whether you should allow for longer recovery times, maybe 2 hardcore workouts per week actually is better for overall growth than 3-4? (It's certainly the case for older people).

One interesting thought, coming out of the Aziz false rape accusation thing: we are now seeing that income from left-leaning celebrity, fame, below a certain point is fragile as Taleb might define it. I think I'm going to see a discussion of fuck-you money later on in the book, but it'd be hilarious to conduct a study of those celebrities or male stars who have been accused of sexual harassment or outright rape, false or otherwise, in particular looking at the source of their income and how large that income is.


If your income is incredibly low and you're a comedian, then you are either robust or antifragile generally: you're already screwed or your resources are low enough that even if you're sued into oblivion the bank is going to spend more money chasing you than they would just calling it quits. And as you drag yourself through the civil law hell, you pick up more material and can attack your enemies nonetheless, since comedy is generally a defence to defamation or libel. This is particularly so under the US system of justice where each person bears their own costs in civil courts as I understand it.

On the other hand, if your income is incredibly high as a comedian, you might be able to hold yourself robust by diversifying your investments (pick up hedge funds, index funds, a trustable wife or family below whom to hide your assets) but you will not really be antifragile. You won't be able to make the small mistakes so necessary to build competence or better comedy; I think it was Patrice O'Neal who said bad jokes are how a comedian learns, but the comedian has much less freedom to make bad, distasteful jokes the more fame he gets and the bigger his audience gets: he's like Seinfeld, he goes dry because he can't afford to piss anyone off. The odds are on you're going to be fragile: let alone making a bad paedophile joke in front of a packed house, all it takes is one rape accusation (of the many, let's say) to get through the net and you're dead in the water.

And for my proof I draw off George Carlin's quote:

"Because of my abuse of drugs, I neglected my business affairs and had large arrears with the IRS, and that took me eighteen to twenty years to dig out of. I did it honorably, and I don't begrudge them. I don't hate paying taxes, and I'm not angry at anyone, because I was complicit in it. But I'll tell you what it did for me: it made me a way better comedian. Because I had to stay out on the road and I couldn't pursue that movie career, which would have gone nowhere, and I became a really good comic and a really good writer."

That is antifragility. The harm made him better at what he did.

What launched Carlin's real career, in 1978? When he gave his "Seven Words You Can't Say On Television" show and the stupid bastards arrested him for it, guaranteeing like dozens of French authors across history that he would become a household name. Again: antifragility is when the harm benefits you on balance.

Further hypothesis:

As a comedian, holding open leftist political positions makes you even more fragile, regardless of your income as a comedian. The crowd that actually pays to go and see comedians is mostly leftie. It's coastal and has more disposable money. That is, it makes it harder to achieve antifragile status as a comedian because if you openly profess leftist positions and are found to be violating them, the backlash will be much greater than if you were a comedian who openly holds and then is found to be violating right-wing positions. Suppose Aziz had been a white man who made woman/Asian/black jokes from the beginning of his career and had constantly made jokes about the Yosemite Sam shooting accuracy of your average Federal agent. Then one day he makes incompetent moves on an Asian chick.

Yes, he'd lose some of the Daily Stormer crowd who are in the front row of his concerts, but any of his leftie audience aren't really worried about it since they openly profess to tolerance -- if they ridicule him they give him more attention and therefore make him stronger -- and the more moderate right-wingers couldn't really care less. It's fair to say White Aziz probably wouldn't be making anywhere as near as much money from the beginning as IRT Aziz, but he'd be much less vulnerable to A Scandal than his leftie counterpart would be. (This same phenomenon is why radical Islam eventually conquers moderate Islam in any reasonably tolerant Islamic population - something else Taleb has written about, but I digress).

George Carlin again: stayed rude and offensive right to the end, in terms of his politics he appeared more apolitical ... or apathetic ... than leftie as such. He was antifragile because he thought elections were illusions of choice, and therefore neither side could touch him, and you could believe him to be any political affiliation you wanted.

By contrast, if you hold openly leftist political positions and are found to be contradicting them, you have a crisis. You can't pick up any audience from the right wing because you've been against them anyway, but your prime audience is nowhere near as tolerant and therefore more likely to desert you in large numbers. As Aziz's crowd is likely to do, and pretty much why the photographer girl calculated her complaint for this moment.

That is: if you're a comedian and you want to try and have sex using bad game, you're better off making Marx jokes: because a leftist with public profile is fragile.

Indeed I wonder (not with much seriousness) whether there's actually a mathematical "maximum returns" point for sucking leftie cock. Past a certain point it doesn't help you in terms of income to be a leftist, because beyond that point you are hopelessly fragile that a single dissatisfied girl can bring you down. Or it might be some kind of bell curve, because if you get to the dizzying heights of income the sex accusations either don't hurt you or, paradoxically, help your reputation (as they do with an alpha like Donald Trump).

RE: The Nassim Taleb thread - Paracelsus - 01-17-2018 09:15 PM

Still reading through Antifragile, got to the part where we start talking about Mediocristans and Extremistans, read about Switzerland as essentially the most antifragile nation on the planet ... because it's a Mediocristan, and nothing's ever invented there. About naive interventionism, and iatrogenics, and all that. I began to query his idea that enforced stability means volatility building up under the surface with a counterexample: Australia. No major civil war, no race rioting, relatively quiet and stable government system for 200 years ... until I started remembering things like the Eureka Stockade, the depressions where we got hit harder than most because we were agrarian primarily, the "recession Australia had to have" back in 1987 and so on, and I began to realise that (a) it does sit on a spectrum and (b) while we have a fairly regulated system, it indeed does suffer harder shocks ... it's just a difference in degree.

Then I got to thinking about determinism and how quantum physics, with its impossibility of knowing a particle's position and velocity at the same time, how that's a sort of Mediocristan since while quantum physics allows us good prediction, there's still necessarily volatility underneath since it's all expressed in probability instead ... I literally lay back on the grass where I was reading, mind blown by the implications, and just looked at the clouds above and realised that's volatility seen from a distance too ...

This book is a complete change in paradigm if you let it sink into your thought. It really is. The last time I really encountered something as profound as this book was The Last Psychiatrist and what his thoughts about narcissism implied about the West (I'm working in my mind on integrating the two: I have a vague feeling that the narcissism plague we are suffering is somehow connected to all this, but I can't see the connection just yet.) This is not a unified field theory, but it's a real Mandelbrot philosophy: things at micro levels reflect that at macro levels.