Category Archives: Facebook

IYI, Minority Rule, Tawk, Lindy Effect, 21, Academia, Dumb Enemies, Salafism | Facebook

[New Version] 9/16/16
The Intellectual Yet Idiot


 It is as irrational to reject all conspiracy theories as it is to accept them. 9/13/16


The classical idea is to build mental capacity, physical strength, and moral fortitude to face the world (Antifragile).

The modern one is to technologically change the world. 9/12/16

———————————————————————…/where-you-cannot-generalize-from-knowl… 9/11/16
Where You Cannot Generalize from Knowledge of Parts (continuation of the Minority Rule)



There is this formidable scene in the Godfather when the Hollywood executive wakes up with a dead horse in his bed. It was a threat, and not an empty threat.

Threats reveal weakness, except when they are real. The method of conveying real threats was perfected by the sect of the Assassins, an 11th-14th C. sect that specialized in political assassination (they always spared civilians and people who were not directly targeted). Just as with the Godfather scene, legend has it that the head of an army moving against them woke up to find a dagger and a message near his head. It was a “recommendation” to stop the war (he promptly took the advice). They could have killed him, but they were too strong for that and proved it. They supposedly did the same with Saladin, informing him that the cake he was about to eat was poisoned… by them.

The Assassins were often associated with the Templars as they fought frequently on the side of the crusaders –they were part of a branch of Shiite Islam that was violently anti-Sunni.

The method of putting skin-in-the-game in political leaders started with the sicarii who used similar method of targeted assassination by means of a dagger (as opposed to the sword which entails battles).

They were exactly the opposite of Salafi terrorists: as I said, they killed leaders, not civilians, hence unlike wars their methods focusing on precision avoid the civilian “colateral damage”. Comparisons with Jihadis get it backward: they were targeted (Salafis are not discriminating, going after anything that moves, even their own). Much of what we read about the Assassins can be smear by their enemies (including their name linked to Hashish).

And the dagger-near-the-pillow scene is signaling at its best: the most effective way to deal with an enemy is to prove to him that you own him. You are so strong that you keep him alive.



The New York Municipality has been trying for 70 years to change 6th Avenue to “Avenue of the Americas”, unsuccessfully.

Place names are sticky, we should be able to get back 6000 year old languages… from the names. Or the timing of the settlement. I speculate that the placename is likely to correspond to the time of the first settlement and sticks throughout. Cartagena in Spain was a Carthaginian settlement (itself from Kart-7adash). All villages in the Levant bear either ancient Semitic (Canaanite or Aramaic) or Greek names (“Kfar-something”, “Beit-something”). It is when a new settlement is made, such as Laodikeia (during the Seleucids, 3-4th C BC) that a new name appears, or when one part near a small town is rebuilt as a government center such as Caesarea. When the Romans give a placename, it is usually a corruption of the originial: Berytus to Beirut (small well in Canaanite), Apamea from 7ama (though it is not in the same location), etc.

Now let us speculate. Knossos, the Minoan center, maps most certainly to to a Semitic root (meaning gathering, like Knesseth, Knisse, etc.), so I conjecture whether Linear B=>Canaanite or reverse.

I also speculate that there is a deep connection of pre-Canaanite for my ancestral village Amioun: 3am Yawan “the Ionian people’s settlement” in Canaanite (we have same genes and genetic diseases as Cretans).

And Marseilles, in France, while its inhabitants claim a Phocaean origin (Greeks of Asia Minor), makes me suspect a Phoenician connection, since “Marsa” means port in Canaanite and a nearby hilltop village is called Ramatuelle, from “Ramat El”, Hill of God, which is certainly Phoenician placename.


The more you use a metric (“metrify”), the more you will compare yourself to others.

The more you compare yourself to others, whether favorably or unfavorably, the worse off you will be.

(This continues the odometer story). 9/4/16


Someone I know refrained from riding his bicycle because the odometer was broken. He felt that his cycling didn’t count towards his “goal”.

This is what happens with systems that becomes “modernized”. 9/2/16


By the Lindy Effect, you should know 20 times more about history of the past 2000 years than that of the past 100 years.

In fact, not only most people know more about the past 100 years, but they knew even more about the past 100 days.

Further, history is not geopolitics (who met whom) or wars, but an understanding of what people used, ate, produced, thought, and argued about. 9/1/16

Found the picture of my 21y old self that I mentioned in the commencement address. 8/28/16…/commencement-address-american-universi…


Academia is (nearly) zero-sum: every position, honor, promotion, rank, and reward is taken from someone else.

Business on the other hand creates business.

That’s the only career advice I feel compelled to give. 8/28/16


 Anger is privilege for the strong, duty for the righteous, and self-harm for the weak. 8/23/16


I speculate that the constant internecine and tribal fights in the absence of external dangers made armies stronger. Which is perhaps why the Greek city states were able to fend off the Persian attacks, but Egypt, with its central order, fell apart when Western Asians came down to invade.

This applies to all scales: Sicilians, Maronites, Cretans, and Corsican families, with their culture of vendetta, fight one another when they run out of enemies. 8/19/16


Dumb enemies are a problem as they can be very hard to predict. 8/19/16


Those who say “I feel sorry for you” mean “I feel envy”. Those who really feel sorry for you don’t say anything. 8/17/16


Refine your mind, keep avoiding BS vendors, journos, & statistical noise to the point when logical flaws and nonsense sound like a jarring notes to a musical ear in a middle of a concert. 8/16/16


The more ritualistic your business life is, the more likely you are to go out of business. Many people just go to the office to go to the office, partake of the rituals of the office, get coffee from the coffee machine, then return home. Some, in order to fill the alloted time, partake of something very structured commonly called a meeting.

So, if you are self employed, the discipline is to be in your office if and only if you have something very, very specific to do. If you are employed, the same works indirectly: the more ritualistic your function, the more probable is your eventual redundancy.

There is another dimension: noise. The shorter the time-scale of information, the more noise you will be getting in the office (or online), relative to the signal. Reducing the physical presence is protective in that sense. 5/15/16


The Most Intolerant Wins 8/14/16…/the-most-intolerant-wins-the-dictators

[Trying a new venue to post chapters. ]


In every undertaking, the more humans try to be demi-gods, the more they become half-monsters 8/13/16



There used to be a distinction between an athlete representing virtus (human-ness*) and ἀρετή (the quality of being what you are made to be) on one hand, and, on the other the circus acrobat selling uniqueness and deformity. Mediterranean ideals, as opposed to the Egypto-Babylonian ones, were about scale and balance: even the Gods were brought down to human scale. (Yet homines sumus, non dei: we are men, not gods)

Today’s Olympics, by dint of specialization and overoptimization, thanks to the media and the huge financing involved, have transformed the athlete into a circus acrobat, a mutant selling deformities.

Let me insist: anything overoptimized, or even barely optimized, is no longer human.

Hominem te esse memento!

* manliness in PC terms.


I never imagined that, in 2016, people selfdefined on the “left” would be in favor of repression, censorship, cronyism, Monsantoism, lobbies, elitism, military interventionsim, and … Salafism ! 8/11/16


That Thing We Call Religion [SKIN IN THE GAME] 8/5/16

The problem of the verbalistic (and the journalistic) is expressed in an aphorism earlier in the Incerto: mathematicians think in (well precisely defined and mapped) objects, philosophers in concepts, jurists in constructs, logicians in operators (…), and idiots in words. We saw that risk and tail risk are mathematically separate objects, conflated by the IYI (intellectual yet idiot) crowd. Two people can be using the same word, meaning different things, yet continue the conversation, which is fine for coffee, but not when making decisions, particularly policy decisions affecting others. But it is easy to trip them, as Socrates did, simply by asking them what they mean by what they said –hence philosophy was born as rigor in discourse and disentanglement of mixed up notions, in precise opposition to the sophist’s promotion of rhetoric. But, since Socrates we have had a long tradition of mathematical science and contract law driven by precision in mapping terms. But we also have had many pronouncements by idiots using labels.

People rarely mean the same thing when they say “religion”, nor do they realize that they don’t mean the same thing. For early Jews and Muslims, religion was law. Din means law in Hebrew and religion in Arabic. For early Jews, religion was also tribal; for early Muslims, it was universal. For the Romans, religion was social events, rituals, and festivals –the word religio was opposition to superstitio, and while present in the Roman zeitgeist had no equivalent concept in the Greek-Byzantine East . Law was procedurally and mechanically its own thing, and early Christianity, thanks to Saint Augustine, stayed relatively away from the law, and, later, remembering its foundations, had an uneasy relation with it. The difference is marked in that Christian Aramaic uses a different word: din for religion and nomous (from the Greek) for law. Jesus, with his imperative “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”, separated the holy and the profane: Christianity was for another domain, “the kingdom to come”, only merged with this one in the eschaton. Neither Islam nor Judaism have a marked separation between holy and profane. And of course Christianity moved away from the solely-spiritual domain to embrace the ceremonial and ritualistic, integrating much of the pagan rites of the Levant and Asia Minor.

For Jews today, religion became ethnocultural, without the law –and for many, a nation. Same for Syriacs, Chaldeans, Armenians, Copts, and Maronites. For Orthodox and Catholic Christians religion is aesthetics, pomp and rituals. For Protestants, religion is belief with no aesthetics, pomp or law. Further East, for Buddhists, Shintoists and Hindus, religion is practical and spiritual philosophy, with a code of ethics (and for some, cosmogony). So when Hindu talk about the Hindu “religion” they don’t mean the same thing to a Pakistani as it would to a Hindu, and certainly something different for a Persian.

When the nation-state idea came about, things got more, much more complicated. When an Arab now says “Jew” he largely means something about a creed; to Arabs, a converted Jew is no longer a Jew. But for a Jew, a Jew is someone whose mother is a Jew. But it somewhat merged into nation-state and now means a nation.

In Serbia-Croatia and Lebanon, religion means something at times of peace, and something quite different at times of war.

When someone discusses the “Christian minority” in the Levant, it doesn’t mean (as Arabs tend to think) promoting a Christian theocracy (full theocracies were very few in Christian history, just Byzantium and a short attempt by Calvin). He just means “secular” or wants a marked separation of church and state. Same for the gnostics (Druids, Druze, Mandeans, Alawis).

The problem with the European Union is that the naive IYI bureaucrats (these idiots who can’t find a coconut on Coconut island) are fooled by the label. They treat Salafism as just a religion –with its houses of “worship”—when in fact it is just an intolerant political system, which promotes (or allows) violence and refuses the institutions of the West –those that allow them to operate. As we saw with the minority rule, the intolerant will run over the tolerant; cancer requires being stopped before it becomes metastatic.

We will see in the next chapter that “belief” can be epistemic, or simply procedural (pisteic) –leading to confusions about what sort of beliefs, are religious beliefs and which ones are not, disentangled through signaling. For, on top of the “religion” problem, there is a problem with belief. Some beliefs are largely decorative , some are functional (they help in survival); others are literal. And to revert to our metastatic Salafi problem: when one of these fundamentalists talks to a Christian, he is convinced that the Christian is literal, while the Christian is convinced that the Salafi has the same oft-metaphorical concepts to be taken seriously but not literally –and, often, not very seriously. Religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, and, to some extent Shiite Islam, evolved (or let their members evolve in developing a sophisticated society) precisely by moving away from the literal –in addition to the functional aspect of the metaphorical, the literal doesn’t leave any room for adaptation .

PS We classicists can invoke Graeco-Roman ethics, that is, virtue ethics, and claim wisdom of the ancestors, or distillation of 3000 years of Mediterranean wisdom and benefit from the Lindy effect. The Salafis are trying the same thing (Salafi means ancestral) –and failing to do anything … actually going backward as we keep advancing. Why? Because Graeco-Roman ethics was never literal, but about principles


‘My Friend’, Turkey, STALIN, GMOs, Arguing, Scale Dependent Properties, SKIN IN THE GAME | Facebook

Nothing can be both boring and truly important. 7/29/16

To perpetuate a lie, you must whisper it, not shout it. 7/27/16


The expression “my friend”: for a name dropper, it is anyone important; for a politician, anyone who does not vote against him/her; for regular people, a friend; in the mob, “a friend of ours” is another mafia member.

For me it is anyone I run into at a party and can’t remember the first name. 7/27/16


For those of you on a hot summer day want to stroll on a beach, this is the way to do it.

It takes some training; rehearse in the privacy of your living room before doing it in public.

(Aldo Maccione, Jacques Brel, etc…)

L’aventure c’est l’aventure is a 1972 French film directed by Claude Lelouch. It stars Lino Ventura, Jacques Brel, Aldo Maccione and Johnny Hallyday. 7/24/16


Turkey is, after 100 years, a complete failure of top-down secularization. So are Iraq and Syria. You keep pushing religion under the rug, via bureaucrats; it comes back with a vengeance.

Iran has, somewhat, the opposite situation. 7/21/16



An illustration of the notion of minimal type 2 error (no false negative): At the Congress of 1934, for the critical confidence ballot, a minority of the 1288 delegates (perhaps a quarter) voted against Stalin.

Stalin ended up trying to eliminating, during the great purge, not just those who were presumed to have voted against him, but all the delegates who were present. 7/20/16


This picture is worth an indefinite amount of words.

It shows why GMOs are *not* traditional breeding. Few people trained traditionally get complex systems (i.e. those with interractions). But there is a growing number of young people who “get it”, particularly when familiar with P/NP in computer science.

Finally I looked at Monsanto’s financials and it shows GMOs are contracting; as a “technology” GMs are dying and no complicated technology survives unless it is multiplicative. Meanwhile organic is growing rapidly.

The PP page is here…

Rahul Gotswani commented on the drawing by Joe Norman for our paper.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.7/14/16


Never argue with people in private (you will not convince them); argue in public to convince others. 7/12/16


Another explanation of Scale Dependent Properties:

Some may believe that *armies create wars* but nobody sane believes that *police create robberies*. 7/7/16


Since more and more of academia is becoming a ritualistic publishing* game that maps less and less to real research, we should force people who want to do “research” to first have a Real World day job, or at least spend 10 years as: lens maker, patent clerc, mafia operator, professional gambler, postman, prison guard, medical doctor, uber driver, militia member, social security clerc, trial lawyer, farmer, restaurant chef, high volume waiter, firefighter (my favorite), lighthouse keeper, etc., while they are doing their initial research.

It is a filtering, BS expurgating mechanism.

I for my part spent the first 21 years in a full-time highly demanding extremely stressful job while studying, researching, and writing my first 3 books at night, and it lowered (in fact, eliminated) my tolerance for fake research.

*I borrow from Saifedean Ammous the apt description “ritualistic game”. 7/6/16


Real World Risk Institute LLC Workshop Announcement. Dear friends, we have:

1) Changed location to a huge room rented from… the Masonic Lodge in NYC, on 23rd St between 5th and 6th Ave.

2) Changed the date of RWRI 3 to October 3-7 2016

3) Changed the non-Antifragile part of the program to add Information, Cybersecurity, Big Data, Complexity (in place of technical finance)

4) Added more scholarship slots.

Macrobullshit, Monsanto, IYI, Metrification, VIOLENCE, GAWKER, The New Artisan | Facebook

The rebellion against the “experts” that we are witnessing can be simplified: experts in some domains like economics, political science, policymaking are not experts. But we know why:

PRINCIPLE: it is easier to macrobullshit than microbullshit.

So your car mechanic, sushi chef, house painter, espresso machine repairperson, plumber, barber, dentist, Apple genius bar attendant, sanitation engineer, translator of Greco-Aramaic texts, guitar player, …, these are, to some degree, experts.

Mixing this with the concept of skin-in-the-game and the idea of complexity, we can build political structures that are immune to expert problems. 7/1/16


So it looks like Monsanto and peers were behind getting 107 Nobels to sign a petition asking Greenpeace to stop blocking Golden Rice. Obviously, science doesn’t work by authority (particularly when one of them has a Nobel in literature, a few in peace, etc.)

But the problem is that it may be about authority–in reverse. The ONLY one of the august people who ever had anything to do with risk was Robert Merton from the blown up firm LTCM who deemed such risk to be in the order of 1 in many trillions (see my books for his description as perfectly Black Swan blind). They picked the wrong PR firm.

The broader problem is that a typical aged Nobel today is someone who had his formative work in the 60s, 70s, maybe 80s, and (unless he is Murray Gell-Mann) clueless about complexity and the difficulty in interractions. And not one has done a day’s work or engaged in real world activity to have the presence of mind to verify the track record of golden rice, or realize that hunger is a problem of DISTRIBUTION not technology –you don’t advocate risky brain surgery when a good night rest could do –primum non nocere. Likewise better give people rice + vitamin rather than open the Frankenbox to fatten the pockets of Biotech.

We throw away one third of our food. Find a Nobel Prize in food distribution. 7/1/16

107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators


What’s a IYI?

Intellectual Yet Idiot: semi-erudite bureaucrat who thinks he is an erudite; pathologizes others for doing things he doesn’t understand not realizing it is his understanding that may be limited; imparts normative ideas to others: thinks people should act according to their best interests *and* he knows their interests, particularly if they are uneducated “red necks” or English non-crisp-vowel class.

More socially: subscribes to the New Yorker; never curses on twitter; speaks of “equality of races” and “economic equality” but never went out drinking with a minority cab driver; has considered voting for Tony Blair; has attended more than 1 TEDx talks and watched more than 2 TED talks; will vote for Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison because she seems electable; has The Black Swan on his shelves but mistakes absence of evidence for evidence of absence; is member of a club to get traveling privileges; if social scientist uses statistics without knowing how they are derived; when in the UK goes to literary festivals; drinks red wine with steak (never white); used to believe that fat was harmful and has now completely reversed; takes statins because his doctor told him so; fails to understand ergodicity and when explained forgets about it soon later; doesn’t use Yiddish words; studies grammar before speaking a language; has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; has never read Frederic Dard, Michael Oakeshot, John Gray, or Joseph De Maistre; has never gotten drunk with Russians and went breaking glasses; doesn’t know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba; doesn’t know that there is no difference between “pseudointellectual” and “intellectual”; has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past 5 years; knows at any point in time what his words or actions are doing to his reputation.

But a much easier marker: doesn’t deadlift. 6/25/16


IN ANTIFRAGILE: On How Some IYI Intellectual-Yet-Imbecile in Brussels would try to regulate how people should “unify” metrics.
Warwick Cairns, a fellow similar to Jane Jacobs, has been fighting in courts to let market farmers in Britain keep selling bananas by the pound, and similar matters as they have resisted the use of the more “rational” kilogram. The idea of metrification was born out of the French Revolution, as part of the utopian mood, which includes changing the names of the winter months to Nivôse, Pluviôse, Ventôse, descriptive of weather, having decimal time, ten-day weeks, and similar naively rational matters. Luckily the project of changing time has failed. However, after re- peated failures, the metric system was implemented there—but the old system has remained refractory in the United States and England. The French writer Edmond About, who visited Greece in 1832, a dozen years after its independence, reports how peasants struggled with the metric system as it was completely unnatural to them and stuck to Ottoman standards instead. (Likewise, the “modernization” of the Arabic alpha- bet from the easy-to-memorize old Semitic sequence made to sound like words, ABJAD, HAWWAZ, to the logical sequence A-B-T-TH has cre- ated a generation of Arabic speakers without the ability to recite their alphabet.)

But few realize that naturally born weights have a logic to them: we use feet, miles, pounds, inches, furlongs, stones (in Britain) because these are remarkably intuitive and we can use them with a minimal expendi- ture of cognitive effort—and all cultures seem to have similar measure- ments with some physical correspondence to the everyday. A meter does not match anything; a foot does. I can imagine the meaning of “thirty feet” with minimal effort. A mile, from the Latin milia passum, is a thousand paces. Likewise a stone (14 pounds) corresponds to . . . well, a stone. An inch (or pouce) corresponds to a thumb. A furlong is the distance one can sprint before running out of breath. A pound, from libra, is what you can imagine holding in your hands. Recall from the story of Thales in Chapter 12 that we used thekel or shekel: these mean “weight” in Canaanite-Semitic languages, something with a physical connotation, similar to the pound. There is a certain nonrandomness to how these units came to be in an ancestral environment—and the digital system itself comes from the correspondence to the ten fingers.

As I am writing these lines, no doubt, some European Union official
of the type who eats 200 grams of well-cooked meat with 200 centiliters’ worth of red wine every day for dinner (the optimal quantity for his health benefits) is concocting plans to promote the “efficiency” of the metric system deep into the countryside of the member countries. 6/25/16

 Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.——————————————————————–


The Nobel Symposium is a 3d retreat that takes place in Norway every 2 years, for the President of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, the secretary of the Prize, a few out of the 5 committee members and 20 scholars. I presented the paper on violence (the translation into English of our technical paper). Bear Braumoeller presented another one similarly critical of Pinker. After our session, the audience was split into:
1) Those who thought that Pinker was wrong
2) Those who thought that Pinker was not even wrong (i.e. not worth discussing).
And the agreement was to not talk about his thesis any further. Further, the organizer was told by Pinker that he did not wish to rebut our papers.

Our Non-technical paper:

Pinker builds his thesis on works by Richardson in a way that is NOT compatible with the way Richardson [which is compatible with our result] and without showing the derivations. This it turned out is a CRITICAL flaw. Words and words and the central point is pulled out of nowhere.

In our paper: “As we also find out in our data analysis, consistent with Richardson (1960), there is no sufficient evidence to reject the null hypothesis of a homogenous Poisson process, which denies the presence of any trend in the belligerence of humanity. Nevertheless, Pinker refers to some yet-unspecified mathematical model that could also support such a decline in violence, what he calls a “nonstationary” process, even if data look the way they look.” 6/22/16

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.


The marker of the character of a person, detectable from childhood, is whether they generalize from local disagreements to other traits when they get upset. Example from real life (told by a Colombian Jew): children are playing, a small dispute erupts over something, one turns antisemitic: “you are a Jew”, throwing all what he can at the other kid. The kid did not change ethnicity during the dispute; being a Jew was not bothersome to the Catholic kid before; it is just meant for the upset party to use all possible weapons. This is why lurking prejudice is bad because it doesn’t show up on sunny days –when scapegoats are needed.

And one doesn’t have to bring ethnicity; any trait such such as “it is well known that you have a reputation of…”, anything meant to demean the person, an information that was not brought up before, only brought during the dispute.

Which is why it is a good idea to upset people and see how they react before engaging in business (or getting socially dependent) — just to see whether they generalize. You would be surprised at the number of people who don’t. And observe what people tell you about others when they are upset with them.

It would not be ethical for me to call someone a charlatan if we engage in a fight unless I’ve called him a charlatan without a fight, or if the fight is about him being a charlatan. 6/13/16


Did violence really drop? It the thesis on drop in violence BS?
Translating our technical results into more common language.
Draft of our report to the Nobel Foundation, for comments before we submit it Monday morning. Thanks in advance. 6/4/16

The Decline of Violent Conflicts: What DoThe Data Really Say? (pdf)



Journalists –as any guild, care about their peers and their community more than the general public. Except that we cannot afford to have such a community engage in a conspiracy against the laymen since they represent our interests, us the lay crowd; they are supposed to stand for the general public against inner circles of power. Journalism arose from the need to expose falsehood, take risks in exposing matters detrimental to the public; in short, counter the agency problem of the powerful. But, it is turning out, the journalism model can also work in the opposite manner: members have been effective in escaping having skin in the game –only whistleblowers and war correspondents currently do.

So one can see how this severe agency problem can explode with the Gawker story. The English tabloid machine came to the U.S. in full force with Gawker, founded by a firm that specializes in dirt on the internet. By dirt I don’t mean a fraudulent transaction abetted by some power: no, the kind of dirt that takes place in bedrooms (and even in bathrooms).

They sell voyeurism, predator voyeurism.

In other words they want to harm citizens by disclosing their private information and posting their videos without their permission in the interest of selling information. And without being accountable for it.
Gawker having posted a video of a celebrity having sex without his permission incurred a monstrous judgment of $140 million. The suit will bankrupt Gawker. Most of all, the judgment revealed that such a predatory business model will not survive, not because it is immoral, but because it has tail risks. For America has tort laws and a legal mechanism by which people harmed by corporations can be compensated for it –a mechanism that flourished thanks to Ralph Nader. It, along with the First Amendment protect citizens by putting skin in the game of the corporations.

Gawker is trying to make a First Amendment argument and unfortunately journos appear to find this justified –while normal citizens are horrified. Liberty in the thoughts of the founding fathers was not about voyeurism, but about public matters.

Gawker argued that because the person committing sex on the video they posted was a public person, that it became a “public” matter exempted from privacy protection. People failed to see that should that argument be true, then next someone spying on any public figure should be allowed to post their bedroom activity (including Hillary Clinton, Obama, anyone)… (Gawker has ruined the lives of 21 year olds posting their sex tapes and their reaction was outrageous; in one instance their lawyer Gaby Darbyshire e-mailed the woman who was in a revenge sex tape, defending the video as “completely newsworthy” and scolding her about how “one’s actions can have unintended consequences.”)

Peter Thiel, a billionaire with a vendetta against Gawker funded a law suit. Revenge motives perhaps, but this is how the market works: Gawker tries to make money therefore they need to live with the risk of someone trying to make money from their demise.
(You make money from the demise of a 21 yo, someone will make money from yours. You make yourself a vehicle for revenge porn; you become the subject of someone’s revenge. You engage in bullying someone financially weaker than you; someone stronger will bully you. There is no reason Gawker should be the only one to use asymmetry given that their very business is asymmetry against weak people–and this is general as the media is asymmetrically strong against citizens, what is commonly called “bullying” ).
I would have personally shorted Gawker (if they were publicly listed) to make money from their collapse. And I am ready to fund lawsuits against journalists who break some intellectual rules and distort people’s positions (strawman arguments).

Any journalist who supports Gawker in the name of the First Amendments fails to understand that they as a community are committing suicide because they are trivializing the reasons behind the First Amendment –and they make it conflict with other fundamental rights. And a corporation trying to warp our sacred values should go bankrupt. And anyone, like Peter Thiel, who accelerates such bankruptcy, should be thanked. 5/31/16



DISCUSSION: The New Artisan.

Anything you do to optimize your work, cut some corners, squeeze more “efficiency” out of it (and out of your life) will eventually make you hate it.

So let us open the discussion: how do you inch closer to an artisan? First, a new definition of an artisan:
1) does things for existential reasons,
2) has some type of “art” in his/her profession, stays away from most aspects of industrialization, combines art and business in some manner (his decision-making is never fully economic),
3) has some soul in his/her work: would not sell something defective or even of compromised quality because what people think of his work matters more than how much he can make out of it,
4) has sacred taboos, things he would not do even if it markedly increased profitability.

From my side, It is easy to see that a writer is effectively an artisan: book sales are not the end motive, only a secondary target (even then). You preserve some sanctity of the product with taboos (Fay Weldon put ads for Bulgari in her books which led to disgust; we do not like advertisement inside the book). You would not hire a group of writers to enter the process and “help” (some have tried, say Jerzy Kosinsky, none has seen his work survive).

Academics are also artisans. Even those economists who claim that humans are here to maximize their income, express these ideas for free, not seeing the contradiction.

DISCUSSION – Will we revert to an artisan society? Which jobs can be made artisanal? Please comment. 5/25/16

Antifragile Medicine, Las Vegas, Real World Risk, Status, Beirut Madinati, Commons, Ethics | Facebook


In Las Vegas at a conference, I explained fragility as nonlinearity:
mix a $2,000 bottle of wine with a $10 one. The 2 bottles will be worth less than $1,005 each.  5/12/16


Friends, our uberization of education is working, working. We intent to keep it at the artisanal level (no online stuff, no scaling) because we enjoy lecturing and want to keep enjoying the atmosphere. Artisanal is a way of being.

We added a quantitative certificate to the qualitative one we already have. The quantitative certificate is August 15-19 in Stony Brook. More advanced, deeper.

Note that the June 6-10 program has ~ 50 people registered. Note that we gave a certain number of scholarships (more than universities!)


Try to talk to a stranger without signaling your status and see how pleasant you will be to him/her.
This is how salespeople and con men operate. They make you crave their company because you do not feel threatened. 5/12/16


I’d rather live in a place where nothing appears to make sense but things work, rather than in a place where things make sense but don’t work. 5/9/16


If you are in Beirut, please vote for Beirut Madinati in Sunday’s municipal election. They are part of the recent worldwide movement to displace established rent seekers and increase governance.
As you can observe, not one of them is wearing a tie.

Note that, in a globalized world, municipal rule is central. We are inching back to the autonomous Phoenician city states.

PS- I do not vote in Beirut (I am registered in my ancestral village Amioun although my grandfather moved to Beirut in 1922).

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.


The best definition of a commons: a space in which you are treated by others the way you treat them.

This continues the previous conversation and connects the commons to skin in the game and golden and silver rules. 5/5/15


What I picked up from Elinor Ostrom is that the private and the public are not the only two entities. There is something called a “commons” in between. As with any complex systems, people behave differently at a different scale. This explains why the municipal is different from the national. It also explains how tribes operate: you are part of a specific group that is larger than the narrow *you*, but narrower than humanity in general.

People share some things *but not others* withing a specified group. And there is a protocol for dealing with the outside. Arab pastoral tribes have firm rules of hospitality towards nonhostile strangers who don’t threaten their commons, but get violent when the stranger is a threat.

The “public good” is something abstract, taken out of a textbook. Everything abstract fails. To repeat, scale, rather than type of regime, is the prime explanation of the flop of communism.

PS – One of the themes in SKIN IN THE GAME is that the “individual” is ill-defined an entity. “Me” is more likely to be a group than a single person. Note that the scale transformation (a group doesn’t have the preferences of an individual) brings us to the flaw in the “selfish gene” theory, which was shown to be mathematically shody by E.O. Wilson and Nowak as well as Yaneer Bar-Yam. 5/3/16


You can very easily distinguish real philosophers and scientists from the CV-building, academic rat variety. The real thing tell you what they are *trying* to figure out, not what they *did* in past career. 4/30/16


Admonish your friends in private; praise them in public. And distrust anyone who does the reverse.

(Secrete amicos admone; lauda palam.) 4/28/16


Someone saying “ethics is good for success” is missing the entire point of ethics.  4/19/16


Added a page as public service (he will now leave me alone, this is to protect others, preserve the integrity of the system)
This is the minority rule: it takes only a few very very intolerant and tenacious people to make the system more honest.  4/18/16


Friends, this is what I wrote in The Black Swan about rare events: they are very difficult to assess probabilistically. Not underpriced: hard to price, hence one should avoid being fragile to them. 4/15/16

Accordingly I have asked for a formal retraction of an article by Noah Smith (someone who has been spreading nonsense for years) and who apparently has not read the book.…/everyone-worries-too-much-ab…
Added a page:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.

Tail Probabilities, Ahiqar the Aramaean | Facebook

Finally put my finger on what is wrong with the common belief in psychological findings that people “irrationally” overestimate tail probabilities, calling it a “bias”. Simply, these experimenters assume that people make a single decision in their lifetime! The entire field of psychology of decisions missed the point.*

If you take the risk –any risk — *repeatedly*, the way to count is in exposure per lifespan. You get diverging results.

It turns out that your grandmother is more rational and more *scientific* than Cass Sunstein who advised Obama on “behavioral biases” of humans, trying to “nudge” us out of them. I am fed up with the class of people who think they know better than us what is in our best interest.

*(By entire I mean *entire*, no exception. They may handle biases differently but their equations have the same flaw.)


When the rich eats a snake, people think it’s for its properties; when the poor does it: because of hunger.

The Wisdom of Ahiqar the Aramaean.
(Incidentally many of Aesop’s fables come from him.)