Monthly Archives: January 2016

Donaldo, Dawkins, Golf, Ken Wilson, E.O. Wilson, ghee, tikka

Where at a reception, I am caught “running after the man with the tulsi aur kali mirch ka paneer tikka”. #ETGBS
2:44 PM – 29 Jan 2016

Worth investigating; extremely worhty of investigation.
2:39 PM – 29 Jan 2016

Delhi #ETGBS. Best tasting bread with ghee, unexplainably good. Indian made wine.
2:24 PM – 29 Jan 2016

Does someone known the name of the biologist who orchestrated the smear campaign against E.O. Wilson?
1:12 PM – 29 Jan 2016

Ken Wilson wrote a great SciAm article (1979) on the renormalization group and the failure of averaging
5:44 AM – 29 Jan 2016

God invented a time-consuming activity known as Golf so people who don’t read book don’t read bad books.
12:24 PM – 29 Jan 2016

#ETGBS Mckinsey’s bigboss: corps have shorter life in SP500. My interpretation: counters theories of inequality.
5:42 AM – 29 Jan 2016

.@RichardDawkins knows this 10 yrs (I spoke w him). He should acknowledge error, EO Wilson changed sides. @IGUZM4N @nntaleb @GeorgeShiber
5:02 PM – 28 Jan 2016

6e) This is why you need a different function for fattaileddist for positive/negative x, glued together. @normonics
5:09 PM – 28 Jan 2016

6c) Patched function is when you use f(x) = something for x<0, somethingelse for x >=0, or \times Sgn[x] etc. @normonics
4:56 PM – 28 Jan 2016

Mathematicians believe argument is closed: Dawkins as journo has journo friends as shown by article by @mattwridley. Journos lag. @dpodbori
4:49 PM – 28 Jan 2016

Donaldo, winning debates & winning the election are, as Fat Tony wd say “two different tings”. Kapish? #antifragile
4:26 PM – 28 Jan 2016

BS Vendors, Dostoyevsky, Auguste Comte, Nobel Foundation, Bill Gates, GMOs, Penrose – The Road To Reality,

Typical initial resistance on the part of Israel/Iran in realizing they will end up fighting on the same side.
5:46 AM – 28 Jan 2016

7) Saw in a flash why to get “honest” function for fattailed CDF you needed alpha exponent in N but not Fourier tr
2:09 AM – 28 Jan 2016

My explanation of the flaw of “averaging” under nonlinear responses and why much of psychology doesn’t generalize.
1:31 AM – 28 Jan 2016

2/2 The problem is deeper than local averaging: The response by Dawkins clique to Nowak’s math was journalistic.
1:28 AM – 28 Jan 2016

The “Selfish Gene” has been debunked by Wilson/Nowak, & Bar Yam. Links to “averaging” in complex syst #Antifragile
1:06 AM – 28 Jan 2016

I meant #skininthegame only learn from those who do what they teach. Ignore others @jsqfunk
4:53 PM – 27 Jan 2016

6b)Penrose made me finally get why I fail to “invent” a powerlaw in R without “patches”.Shd focus on Complex:Fourier
4:47 PM – 27 Jan 2016

6a) His discussion of Euler proper “smooth” function in Re domain vs analyticity in complex=>why no real function on R for fattailed distr
4:43 PM – 27 Jan 2016

To learn, learn from those who do it.
3:20 PM – 27 Jan 2016

5) He ties together stuff that we never put together. Sometimes just a hint leads to a flash. What is natural/rational number before quarks?
11:47 AM – 27 Jan 2016

4) Just reread first 7 chapters on plane to India.
+discovery of math techniques (complex analysis, Log) led to uncovering of the physical
11:45 AM – 27 Jan 2016

best quote re Davos @nntaleb “The opposite of success isn’t failure; it is name dropping.”Going to needlepoint it.
9:48 AM – 27 Jan 2016

.@kennethminoo The idea is the inverse problem. Imagine yourself having to produce the math that explains reality, no less no more.
4:24 PM – 26 Jan 2016

The English approach math a la Newton: less formalisn more coherence @OussamaENNAFII
4:06 PM – 26 Jan 2016

3) TRTR shows the exact interplay between math and physical reality. It works like magic. Think of complex analysis=>quantum` probability!!!
3:33 PM – 26 Jan 2016

2) Before TRTR viewed the world into: Von Neumann vs Feynman. For VN, a physical was a term in equation. For RF, math could be masturbation.
3:31 PM – 26 Jan 2016

1) Penrose’s TRTR convinced me that it takes 10 years to properly real a real book.
3:27 PM – 26 Jan 2016

Friends, Let’s start a twitter symposium on Penrose’s monumental TRTR (after 10y of reading it). #lindyeffect
3:08 PM – 26 Jan 2016

Someone needs to (gently & patiently) explain to Bill Gates that in real life you can’t reboot to solve a crash.
3:01 PM – 26 Jan 2016

Syllabus of my course at NYU-Tandon @nyupoly: 7 Introductory lectures on Extreme Risk Analytics.
6:49 AM – 26 Jan 2016

It is a myth that markets are there for the discovery of “the” price.(Facebook)  Markets are there so we can keep changing opinion about the price.
In addition, for those who believe in the “wisdom of crowds”, looks like the idea is debunked by the minority rule.

Every century brings the fool (Facebook) who declares that “violence is steadily declining” and that we live in “unparalleled” period of peace (40 years without conflict). And, needless to say, attributes it to some type of progress. This was from H.T. Buckle circa 1857. I was shocked to find Pinker’s words… verbatim. It was not just Pinker’s reasoning, but his words.

The great F. Dostoyevsky debunked it in “Notes from an underground” (enclosed).

A common theme of “positivist-rationalists-scientistic” (that is, promoters of scientism) to believe in “end of”, new man, new society, new something, etc. Just as the “new atheists” believe that if we remove religion and replaced with something they mislabel as “science”, things wouldn’t blow up the planet. Now, looking for some quotes from Auguste Comte who, thanks to his magisterial multi-volume project, “Cours de Philosophy Positive” gave respectability to this turkey problem.
1) Dostoyevsky, as an author, had skin in the game. He faced his own execution: he was condemned to death penalty, faced the execution squad, and was reprieved last minute. See in The Idiot the discussion of how a man faces what he think is his last hours of life, promising himself to enjoy every minute of like in the same manner if case he miraculously survives… and forgetting it upon the miraculous survival. Much more on him, later.

2) The Nobel Foundation gave me a fellowhip to go study the statistical properties of violence in Oslo. So I will get deeper into this turkey problem and its sucker narrative.

3) Thanking Daniel Obloja.

When people get rich (Facebook), they lose control of their preferences, substituting constructed preferences to their own, triggering their own misery. And these are the preferences of those who want to sell them something (a skin-in-the-game problem as their choices are dictated by others who have something to gain, and no side effects, from the sale).

I’ve mentioned here the following anecdote. I once had dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant with a fellow who insisted on eating there instead of my selection of a casual Greek place. People in the restaurant were of the very constipated style, that kind of atmosphere. Dinner consisted in a succession of complicated small things. It felt like work. I left the place starving. Now if I had a choice I would have had some time-tested recipe (say a pizza with fresh ingredients, or a juicy hamburger) in a lively place –for a tenth of the price. But because the fellow could afford the expensive restaurant, we ended up the victims of some complicated experiments by a chef judged by some Michelin bureaucrat (one that would fail the Lindy effect, instead of eating some minute local variation around a progress through Sicilian grandmothers).

(Footnote: Hamburgers are tastier than filet mignon, because of the higher fat content, but people have been convinced that the latter is better because it is more expensive to produce).

The same with real estate. Most people, I am convinced, are happier in close quarters, in a real barrio-style neighborhood, where they can feel human warmth, but when they have big bucks they end up pressured to move into a humongous impersonal and silent mansions, far away from the neighbors. Not counting the fact that their house will be professionally managed like a corporation.

I am saying this because, with the passage of time, I am more and more convinced that very few people understand their own choices, and end up being manipulated by those who want to sell them something. Looking at Saudi Arabia which should progressively revert to the pre-oil level of poverty, I wonder if taking away some things from them will make them better off.

A part man-part animal (Facebook) is vastly more horrifying than a full wild animal. Extremely eerie are monsters who look like humans with small differences.

The uncanny resides in the resemblance, not the difference.

So I finally figured out why I am gripped with so much revulsion at BS vendors dressed in the garb of high priest of scientists, intellectuals, or logicians, (say Pinker or Shermer or Harris or some scientist under Monsanto’s control), to the point of total maddening anger, and why I do not experience any disgust when I see a fortune teller, a market commentator, or some new age meditation guru such as Deepak Chopra.

FRIDAY QUIZ.(Facebook)
“People of high intelligence are ethical. We find fewer intelligent people among criminals.”
Spot the nonsense in the sentence.

When I was a quant-trader (Facebook), my trading colleagues talked about books, ideas, and quants talked about probability and mathematics. Now that I am in the “ideas” profession, my academic colleagues discuss office space, and my writing colleagues talk about book agents, speakers bureaus and copyrights. Professional mathematicians talk about grants and amateur ones about Godel.

One Bank Flagship Seminar by Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Tail Risk Measurement Heuristics

Date: Thursday 18 February 2016
Time:  4.15-6pm
Venue: Moorgate Auditorium, 20 Moorgate
Speaker: Professor Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The first part of this talk – The Law of Large Numbers in the Real World – presents fat tails, defines them, and shows how the conventional statistics fail to operate in the real world, particularly with econometric variables, for two main reasons: 1) we need a lot, a lot more data for fat tails;  and 2) we are going about estimators the wrong way. The second part – Detecting Fragility – presents heuristics to detect fragility in portfolios. Fragility is shown to be ‘anything that is harmed by volatility’. The good news is that while (tail) risk is not measurable, fragility is.
This event is free though places are limited. Entry is on a first come, first served basis.  To apply for a place, or for any queries about this event, please contact the One Bank Research Seminar Team.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #BoETaleb

Sam Harris Responds

Probably you find yourself as am I, baffled by the recent spat of Twitter hate emanating from NNT towards @SamHarris, @sapinker and many others. The Steven Pinker spat goes back to a 2009 NYT book review by Pinker of Malcolm Gladwell’s “What the Dog Saw”, where Pinker beats up on Gladwell (see also). Taleb, featured in the book, by then a friend of Gladwell, comes to the rescue. Pinker is surprised, Taleb doubles down. From Maclean’s 12/10/2012:

So, when the renowned Canadian-born Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker penned a critical review in The New York Times of fellow Canadian Malcolm Gladwell’s novel, What the Dog Saw, Taleb rushed to Gladwell’s defense. “I got furious. I feel loyalty for someone who does something nice for you, when you are nobody.” Taleb wrote a scathing critique of Pinker’s research in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined. In his critique, titled “The Pinker problem,” Taleb claims Pinker’s book is riddled with errors in sampling and doesn’t “recognize the difference between rigorous empiricism and anecdotal statements.” Pinker responded with his own paper in which he writes, “Taleb shows no signs of having read Better Angels.”

NNT’s beef with Sam Harris is a little harder to track.


The debate Harris talks about, which seems to be the nexus of NNT’s beef with him, happened in 2009.
In a recent podcast, Sam Harris responded to NNT’s Tweets and shared some context.
Listen to the relevant section of the podcast

The entire debate, from La Ciudad de las Ideas 2009, full and unedited, can be found here. What follows are relevant clips from NNT and then Sam Harris.

The neuroscience papers Sam Harris refers to are:
Neural Correlates of Religious and Nonreligious Belief
Functional Neuroimaging of Belief, Disbelief, and Uncertainty (pdf)

Fortune Cookie Science, SITG, Richard Dawkins, 2016, Squid Ink, Minority Rule

FORTUNE-COOKIE SCIENCE (Facebook), definition: an understanding of science, probability & rationality obtained via slogans of the type found in Chinese restaurants’ fortune cookies, particularly easy to spread on the web.

The other night at a party. (Facebook)
“How do your books differ from those of [X]?”.
Me: “I don’t know I don’t often read contemporary authors, and odds are I will never read “X”.
She: “But you are writing books for an audience, no? You are responsible to tell the audience how you compare to others.”
Me: “Do you have a boyfriend?”
She: “Yes, he is here.”
Me: “Did you ask him how he compares in bed to other men at the party or is it something you found out by yourself?”

Thanks for the symposium on risks. (Facebook)  The article came out in the WSJ. But I wasn’t aware of company: almost fainted.

Anyway wrote only 2 Op-Eds in 2015: NYT and WSJ. The rule is to stay below 3.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb on the Real Financial Risks of 2016


Last email from 2015. (Facebook)  Our paper debunking Pinker’s thesis was accepted by a stat journal Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and Applications.

Science Wins! In the months that it took us to publish this our paper was under the scrutiny of professional probabilists and statisticians who deal with Extreme Events, whose comments we collected and incorporated while Pinker and his goons were active in the press, on blogs and social media spreading stawman-clueless commentary.

Happy Science. Happy 2016!

PS- More generally I have to describe the “Pinker fallacy” under fat tails. His claim is sort of, to put it in statistical or scientific terms: “Violence has dropped by .00001 standard deviations. Let us explain WHY.”
PPS- Confirms my idea that, in science, a single comment by a mathematician can outweigh those by a billion BS vendors.

Our paper is here: