Nassim Nicholas Taleb: the prophet of boom and doom

Banks should be more like New York restaurants. They come and go but the restaurant business as a whole survives and thrives and the food gets better. Banks fail but bankers still get millions in bonuses for applying their useless models. Restaurants tinker, they work by trial and error and watch real results in the real world. Taleb believes in tinkering – it was to be the title of his next book. Trial and error will save us from ourselves because they capture benign black swans. Look at the three big inventions of our time: lasers, computers and the internet. They were all produced by tinkering and none of them ended up doing what their inventors intended them to do. All were black swans. The big hope for the world is that, as we tinker, we have a capacity for choosing the best outcomes.

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We should be mistrustful of knowledge. It is bad for us. Give a bookie 10 pieces of information about a race and he’ll pick his horses. Give him 50 and his picks will be no better, but he will, fatally, be more confident.

We should be ecologically conservative – global warming may or may not be happening but why pollute the planet? – and probablistically conservative. The latter, however, has its limits. Nobody, not even Taleb, can live the sceptical life all the time – ‘It’s an art, it’s hard work.’ So he doesn’t worry about crossing the road and doesn’t lock his front door – ‘I can’t start getting paranoid about that stuff.’ His wife locks it, however.

Full Story: Times Online

(via Zenarchery)

Karl Popper is nearly forgotten today, but at least some of his messages are gaining some new currency.

2 Comments

  1. Martin Armstrong’s system has been amazingly accurate.
    http://princetoneconomics.blogspot.com/2006/06/economic-confidence-model.html
    http://www.nowandfutures.com/buscycle.htm

    Unfortunately, he was imprisoned for 7 years without a trial. for a “crime” some say he didn’t commit. (He had his trial and will serve 5 more years.) The conspiracy theory behind his imprisonment is that the feds were after his model, and he wouldn’t give it to them.
    http://www.topix.com/forum/business/TS8IHELKS6G8FDV65

    There used to be a site with his articles on it, but it seems to be unaccessible now. If you google his name you will find some of his articles on other sites.

  2. I’ve read Wittgenstein is well remembered and of little influence, while Popper is forgotten but changed much in the world.

    Suggested: “Conjectures and Refutations” – “The Open Society and Its Enemies” – “Unended Quest” by Karl Popper. I’ve not read a bad book by Popper yet (even when I disagree with him) but these are especially recommended.

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