Monthly Archives: November 2015

Exploring the Practice of Antifragility


Really appreciate . . .

During 2015, as a group of practitioners who use “antifragility” we hosted a number of panel/webinar conversations regarding Antifragility (Practice Beyond the Rhetoric!) . . .

To continue expanding the community as well as sharing/learning from one another, we have *just* published an Amazon Kindle eBook entitled “Exploring the Practice of Antifragility” (A Kaleidoscope of Perspectives) . . .

. . . and . . .

. .. that *references* the above events as well as briefly elaborate invites people’s perspectives on Antifragility using the three questions that guided the panel/webinar conversations.

Additionally, please note that the eBook does *not* directly incorporate any of the content from the panel/webinar events. Furthermore, all proceeds from the work will be going to a *charity*.

Given that the book is an Amazon Kindle eBook, we will be routinely updating the eBook.

We invite anyone to contribute . . . which involves a 1/2 to 3/4 page answer to each question (same as the panel/webinar questions):

* How have you interpreted Taleb’s concept of Antifragility?

* How have you translated your interpretation into practice?

* What are the results and impacts of your efforts?

People are of-course be acknowledged as a *contributor* on the eBook cover etc.

Additionally, as @nntaleb also tweeted about the eBook . . . the eBook achieved Amazon #1 Best Seller in One-Hour Business & Money Short Reads!

. . . book website

. . . blog

Would appreciate you informing people of this project / invitation. . . (and possibly contributing your views)

Looking forward to your thoughts/reply . . . I am available to address any questions via phone or skype.




Antifragility Panel/Webinar: Practice Beyond the Rhetoric!

Look for audio links to webinar recordings in post.

In his book “Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder”, Nassim Nicholas Taleb‘s (@nntaleb) introduced the concept of antifragility.

Appreciating this concept involves initially recognizing it and then translating it into practice!

First, Taleb distinguishes between the fragile, robust, and antifragile: “the fragile wants tranquility, the antifragile grows from disorder, and the robust doesn’t care too much.”

Next, Taleb advances that “by grasping the mechanisms of antifragility we can build a systematic and broad guide to non-predictive decision making under uncertainty in business, politics, medicine, and life in general.”

As the world continues to become increasingly interconnected and interdependent, Black Swans — large-scale unpredictable and irregular events of massive consequence — are necessarily becoming more prominent!

As a result of the proliferation of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity, non-predictive decision making is quintessential — and individuals, teams & groups, and organizations & enterprises are embracing the quest for greater antifragility to realize greater employee creativity & engagement and market innovation & disruption!

GMOs, Putin, Downloading, Piketty, Dupire, Monotheism, Doctorow, Daesh, Cossaks

Retweeted by NNT

(revision of earlier discussion)

You can attack what a person *said* or what the person *meant*. The former is more sensational. The mark of a charlatan is to defend his position or attack a critic by focusing on *some* of his/her specific statement (“look at what he said”) rather than attacking his position (“look at what he means” or, more broadly, “look at what he stands for”), the latter of which requires a broader knowledge of the proposed idea. Note that the same applies to the interpretation of religious texts.

Given that it is impossible for anyone to write a perfectly rationally argued document without a segment that, out of context, can be transformed by some dishonest copywriter to appear totally absurd and lend itself to sensationalization, politicians and charlatans hunt for these segments. “Give me a few lines written by any man and I will find enough to get him hung” goes the saying attributed to Richelieu, Voltaire, Talleyrand, a vicious censor during the French revolution phase of terror, and others.

I take any violation by an intellectual as a disqualification, some type of disbarment –same as stealing is a disbarment in commercial life. It is actually a violation of journalistic ethics, but not enforced outside of main fact-checking newspapers.[Note 1]

Take for instance the great Karl Popper: he always started with an unerring representation of the opponents positions, often exhaustive, as if he were marketing them as his own ideas, before proceededing to systematically destroy them. Or take Hayek’s diatribes “contra” Keynes and Cambridge: at no point there is a single line misrepresenting Keynes or an overt attempt at sensationalizing*. [**I have to say that it helped that people were too intimidated by Keynes’ intellect to trigger his ire.]

Read Aquinas, written 8 centuries ago, and you always see sections with QUESTIO->PRAETERIA, OBJECTIONES, SED CONTRA, etc. describing with a legalistic precision the positions being challenged and looking for a flaw in them and a compromise. That was the practice by intellectuals.

Twitter lends itself to these sensationalized framing: someone can extract the most likely to appear absurd and violating the principle of charity. So we get a progressive debasing of intellectual life with the rise of the media, needing some sort of policing.

Note the associated reliance of *straw man* arguments by which one not only extracts a comment but *also* provides an interpretation, promoting misinterpretation. I consider *straw man* no different from theft.

I just subjected the *principle of charity* as presented in philosopy to the Lindy test: it is only about 60 years old. Why? Does it meant that it is transitory? Well, we did not need it explicitly before before discussions were never about slogans and snapshots but synthesis of a given position.

An answer came as follows. Bradford Tuckfield (earlier post) wrote: ” I think this principle is much older than 60 years. Consider in the book of Isaiah, chapter 29, verse 21: he denounces the wicked who “make a man an offender for a word,” implying that people were focusing on specific words rather than positions, and that this is a bad practice.”
So it seems that the Lindy effect wins. In fact as with other things, if the principle of charity had to become a principle, it is because an old practice had to have been abandoned.

Thanks Tredag Brajovic for the Richelieu story.

[Note 1: Journos seem to make the mistake but freak out when caught –they have fragile reputations and tenuous careers. I was misinterpreted in my positions on climate change in a discussion with David Cameron in 2009 (presenting them backwards) and when I complained, the editors were defensive and very apologetic, the journos went crazy when I called them “unethical”, some begged me to retract my accusation.]

We must take our fight to the preachers and financiers of terror.

Paris, Wahabis, Salafi, Homeopathy, Beirut

Since 2001 our policy for fighting Islamic terrorists has been, (Facebook) to put it politely, missing the elephant in the room, sort of like treating symptoms and completely missing the disease. Policymakers and slow-thinking bureaucrats stupidly let terrorism grow by ignoring the roots. We lost a generation: someone who went to grammar school in Saudi Arabia (our “ally”) after September 11 is now an adult, indocrinated into believing and supporting Salafi violence, hence encouraged to finance it –while we got distracted by the use of complicated weapons and machinery.

Even worse the Wahabis have accelerated their brainwashing of East and West Asians with their madrassas, thanks to high oil revenues.

So instead of invading Iraq, blowing up Jihadi John and individual terrorists, thus causing a multiplication of these people, it would have been be easier to focus on the source of all problems: the Wahabi/Salafi education and promotion of intolerance by which a Shiite or a Yazidi or a Christian are deviant people.

If we absolutely need to put people in Guantanamo, it is the Salafi preachers, Wahabi clerics, not just the people swayed by their teaching. And if we need to correct Saudi problems, we need to start by sending to them OUR preachers, educating them into tolerance, explaining the very concept of the separation of church and state. Or, better even, encourage Muslim preachers who promote religious tolerance (laka dinak wa li dini) — instead of seeing them ostracized.
And if you find violence unavoidable, it should be directed at the Saudi and Qatari funders of violence, as well as the Salafi theorists, rather than the young performers.

PS Beware the usual ISIS crypto-sympathizer who sort of “explains” (that is, justifies) what happened (intentionally killing civilians) with some other Western event that can go all the way to the crusades… Otherwise it is “biased”. You cannot condemn ISIS without at the same time trying to be “balanced”? Who are they fooling? This is the technique of bundling problems that can be treated independently and you need to learn to deal with them by forcing them to discuss the problem of ISIS on its own.…/saudi-arabias-curriculum-intoler…

Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom released a report analyzing a set of Saudi Ministry of Education textbooks in use during the current academic year in Islamic studies courses for elementary and secondary students. The textbooks promote an ideology of hatred toward people, including Musli…

Delenda est Salafi-stan. (Facebook)

(Background: Cato the ancient, for years, kept starting or ending his speeches at the Roman Senate with variations around “Delenda est Cartago”, *Carthage must be destroyed*. Until the Roman fleet went and destroyed Carthage, ending its threat.)

Comment 1: Since Sep 11 no focus to cut the SOURCE of terrorism: Salafi funding of terror & intolerance in schools (Qatari & Saudi money); ISIS oil.

Comment 2: Someone who went to school on Sept 11 in Saudi Arabia, now age 18 is brainwashed by the system to believe that all Shiites, Christians, and other minorities are deviant beings whose death doesn’t count.

The Saudi king is shocked that his own Wahabi intolerance …kills people. Murderer!

— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 14, 2015
14 y after Sept 11, teenagers in Saudi Arabia are schooled to believe Shiites, Christians, & others are deviants whose death doesn’t count.

— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 14, 2015
Never take an advice from a salesperson

— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 13, 2015
I don’t know if the association is justified, but it takes greed to cancel the effect of corporate bullying.

— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 13, 2015
Superstitions can be rational if 1) harmless, 2) lower your anxiety, 3) prevent you from listening to forecasts by economists & BS “experts”

— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 13, 2015
Skin in the game rule: after every tragic event in Beirut, never talk about it without visiting. Was there last week, going back in 2 weeks.

— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 12, 2015

Celibacy, Data, Inequality and Wealth, Kilkenomics

Imagine working for a corporation that produces secret harm to the collective, in hiding cancer-causing risk which kills the thousands but is not (yet) fully visible. You can alert the public, but would automatically lose your job and there is a gamble that the company’s evil scientists would disprove you, causing additional humiliation. You know the history of whisteblowers and realize that, even if you end up vindicated, it may take time for the truth to emerge over the noise created by corporate shills. You have nine children, a sick parent, and as a result of the stand, the children’s future is compromised. College hopes are gone. You feel severely conflicted between the harm to the collective and guilt from harm to your progeny. Thousands are dying from the hidden poisoining by the corporation. You would like to be a hero but it comes at a huge cost.

Society likes saints and moral heroes to be celibate so they do not have family pressures and be forced into dilemmas of needing to compromise their sense of ethics to feed their children. Some martyrs like Socrates had young children (although he was in his seventies), and overcame the dilemma at their expense. Many can’t.

The fact that people with families are vulnerable has been remarkably exploited in history. The Samurai had to leave their families in Edo as hostages, thus guaranteeing to the authorities that they would not take positions against the rulers. The Romans and Huns partook of the practice of trading permanent “visitors”, the children of rulers on both sides who grew up at the courts of the foreign nation in a form of gilded captivity. The Ottomans relied on janissaries who were extracted as babies from Christian families and, having no family (or no contact with their family), were entirely devoted to the Sultan.


In the more rural past, wealthy people were not as exposed to other persons of their class. They didn’t have the pressure to keep up with other wealthy persons and compete with them. The wealthy stayed within their region, surrounded with people who depended on them, say a Lord on his property. Except for the occasional season in the cities, their social life was quite vertical.
It is in mercantile urban environments that socializing within social class took place. And, over time, with industrialization the rich started moving to cities or suburbs surrounded with other people of similar –but not very similar –condition. Hence they needed to keep up with each other, racing on a treadmill.

Thanks @Kilkenomics. Only economics conference without uptight and constipated technocrats.
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 10, 2015

Fascinating talk on #BlackSwan #antifragile @nntaleb – great to meet you @kilkenomics – great insights @davidmcw— Shauna O’Boyle (@Shaunaob) November 10, 2015

Jotted down at Kilkenomics why neuroscience, evolutionary theory, behavioral econ, genetics, etc. are full of BS— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 9, 2015

Enthralled by @peterfrankopan ‘s book The Silk Roads and by @davidmcw ‘s @kilkenomics
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 9, 2015

Fooled by Researchers
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 12, 2015

Becoming an academic if you like the pursuit of knowledge is like becoming an airport mechanic if you like flying. #uninterestingdetails
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 11, 2015

Here is the sheet of simulations where I show to be skeptical of big data, DNA promises, etc. IN PROGRESS.
— NassimNicholasTaleb (@nntaleb) November 10, 2015