Tag Archives: Real World Risk

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.
http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/SmithBSVendor.html  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.

Added a page:

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.

SOUL IN THE GAME, Real World Risk, Rebellion, Voting to Destroy the Establishment | Facebook

Reader: “Dear N., I have read all your books and have a question. How do you recommend an average young man navigate the modern world? “.

Me: “Never ask a vague question“. (3/13/16)



The rise of protectionism may have a strong rationale. One fundamental flaw with economic thinking is that humans are assumed to be doing things to make a living and improve their economic condition. This is partially true. But people are also doing things for existential reasons. We may be better off economically (in the aggregate) by exporting jobs. But that’s not what people may really want.

I write because that’s what I am designed to do –and subcontracting my research and writing to China or Tunisia would (perhaps) increase my productivity but deprive me of my identity.

So people might want to *do* things. Just to do things, because they feel it is part of their identity. It may be cruel to cheat them of that. They too want to play. They want to have their soul in the game.

Bureaucrats don’t get it because they don’t do things.

NOTE I: More technically, it is erroneous to think that one necessarily has to “maximize” income if one seeks it (economists used naive mathematics in their optimization programs and thinking). It is perfectly compatible to “satisfice” their wealth, that is, shoot for a satisfactory income, plus maximize one’s fitness to the task, or the emotional pride they may have in seeing the fruits of their labor. Or not maximize anything, just do things because that is what makes us human.

NOTE II: TK. (3/12/16)


Announcement: Our next Real World Risk (Taking) Mini-Certificate is June 6-10, Princeton Club in NYC.

Comments by the previous class found on social media:



What we are seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30y of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, microeconomic papers wrong 40% of the time, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

Indeed one can see that these academico-bureaucrats wanting to run our lives aren’t even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking. I have shown that most of what Cass-Sunstein-Richard Thaler types call “rational” or “irrational” comes from misunderstanding of probability theory. (3/9/16)


The *establishment* composed of journos, BS-Vending talking heads with well-formulated verbs, bureaucrato-cronies, lobbyists-in training, New Yorker-reading semi-intellectuals, image-conscious empty suits, Washington rent-seekers and other “well thinking” members of the vocal elites are not getting the point about what is happening and the sterility of their arguments. People are not voting for Trump (or Sanders). People are just voting, finally, to destroy the establishment. (3/7/16)

Violence Under Fat Tails, Enemies of the Good, Real World Risk, Umberto Eco | Facebook

We finally summarized both our violence paper and our methodology for “Fooled by Randomness” under fat tails. We explain in the simplest possible terms what is noise and what is “significant” and why journos such as Pinker are fooled by “drops in violence”. (3/2/16)

The file is at:

Background: one economist, Michael Spagat, commented on us vs. Pinker in a journal called significance, making eggregious errors of significance. The mean NEEDS to include the tails.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.


1) Hillary Monsanto-Malmaison (a la Tony Blair, used public office for subsequent enrichment; the reverse is far better; agent of the crony clepto-bureaucrato Washington order. Unlike overt corruption, this insidious form (legal not ethical) is the most morally damaging to our fabric).

2) The Wahabi regime of Saudi Barbaria and their friends.

3) Agrochemical and pharma shills.

4) People increasing rather than decreasing ruin problems while claiming to “help”, i.e., with enough pseudoknowledge of probability to cause damage (a la Cass Sunstein who find it irrational for people to worry about ruin)… (2/29/16)

Apparently we did OK with our inaugural Real World Risk Mini-Certificate. Five days of lecturing.

We managed to drill the essence of the problems with graphs only, with examples and concepts, no equations. And it worked! For instance, Zari Rachev who was the doctoral student of the great Kolmogorov was simpler than any lecturer I have ever seen on probability, could get points simple enough for school students.

I lectured a bit more than 6/10, but most other instructors were present in debates, with constant commentary from Robert Frey and teasing from Raphael Douady. At many times the discussions were like stand-up comedy.

I focused in my part in showing that almost all of probabilistic decision problems, convexity (antifragility) and all can be linked to a simple logical asymmetry that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and how the point gets lost as people become semi-sophisticated. From that you get almost everything in a tight systematic view.

This is the first time I’ve worked hard in 15 years. I realized the trick: had no coffee. It works.

The next seminar is June 6.


[NOTE We are assuming that given that these comments were on public sites (Twitter) we do not need the hassle of the permission/approval process. But if the author objects we would remove immediately.] (2/27/16)

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

Today a big chunk of erudition, curiosity, imagination, and intellectual playfulness has left the planet.
Rest in Peace, Umberto Eco. (2/20/16)

Nassim Nicholas Taleb's photo.