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In Search of the Writer-Philosopher: N.N. Taleb « David L.

Shared by JohnH
David attended the recent Hard Problems symposium. His account does read a little bit like a scene in a movie. Check out the full post at the link above.

Taleb decried Academia, and Finance, the two being intimately connected. The former he rebuked because it was teaching all of the wrong things in the vulgar act of moneymaking—business; the latter for obvious reasons, being the locus of the recession. The Academics in the panel didn’t want to hear it; they wanted Academia and their methods of teaching to be exalted and not to be associated with vulgar finance.

Of course, there were some economist or would be economist in the audience. Indeed, when Taleb denounce VaR and the methods used in Finance, I noticed some young turks shaking their heads, I could hear them thinking: I mean, Harvard couldn’t be teaching us methods that don’t work, this is the epitome of knowledge, Taleb must be wrong and Harvard Business School right. However, these kids should be learning the scientific method: if your models, theories, tools, don’t work admit your wrong and change them. Alas, admitting you are wrong is so much difficult and it takes courage.

The panelist answer questions in long winded narratives; I was seeing Taleb’s indignation increased because non of the questions address his problem. Time was running out; and some last minute swipes at Taleb over the merit of the Noble Peace Price; the tension was palpable. Time is up, five a clock, Taleb walks out of the auditorium. I thought: here he is trying to promote his ideas, here he is in the suppose epitome of knowledge: Harvard University, here he is!– and far too many of the seats are empty. Most of the people were outside enjoying the wonderful sunny weather.

I am still kicking myself for not asking my question in public, but I wanted an answer, nonetheless. So I figure Taleb must be somewhere in the building. I grabbed my stuff and walkout into the main lounge nonchalantly. I saw him walking towards the auditorium.

“ Mr. Taleb I have a question?” trying to walk along with him.
He grumble.

“Mr. Taleb do you think we should Nationalist the Banks?” Trying to speedily read my question and trying to sound proper.

“No, let the banks destroy themselves.” he said grumbly, And I stopped and saw him walk into the auditorium.

Of course, from reading his books, I know he has a sense of humor and he had just come out of a very intense, emotional, meeting; thus, I didn’t take his answer seriously—and we shouldn’t.

I went back to brew myself a drink; a minute later, he was walking fast ready to make his escape from this suffocating place. I looked at his face and said  “have a good evening” he smiled at me and went his own way. With that he made a convert of me.


  1. David L. wrote:

    Hi, thanks for linking to my post concerning Taleb. And it will be very interesting once Harvard releases the video of the event.I had no idea that there was such a great web-site as this one following him. Thanks.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  2. John wrote:

    Hi David,
    I very much enjoyed your post. I would have felt much like you describe- wanting to pay my respects, but respecting NNT’s privacy at the same time. Yes I’m looking forward to the video/audio. Glad you like the site.

    Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

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