How to live in a world you don’t understand

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is the author of  ANTIFRAGILE: Things That Gain From Disorder,  which is about how to thrive in a world that is basically unpredictable.  Taleb said that individuals and societies become stronger when they expose themselves to moderate amounts of stress and risk, and become vulnerable when they try to eliminate stress and risk.   He said it is impossible and unnecessary to predict the future.  What is possible, on an individual and societal level, is to arrange things so that you have more to gain than to lose from change.

In this video he talks about his ideas to his friend Daniel Kahneman, author of Thinking, Fast and Slow, which is about how people make most of their decisions on the basis of intuition, and how thing can lead us astray, particularly when thinking about risk.

I give you fair warning that this video is an hour and nearly 20 minutes long.  I thought it was interesting and maybe you will, too.   Here are some quotes from the book which I hope will pique your interest.

My characterization of a loser is someone who, after making a mistake, doesn’t introspect, doesn’t exploit it, feels embarrassed and defensive rather than enriched with a new piece of information, and tries to explain why he made the mistake rather than moving on.

He who has never sinned is less reliable than he who has only sinned once.  And someone who has made plenty of errors—though never the same error more than once—is more reliable than someone who has never made any.

As a rule, intervening to limit size (of companies, airports, or sources of pollution), concentrations and speed are beneficial in reducing Black Swan risks.  These actions may be devoid of iatrogenics—but it is hard to get governments to limit the size of government.

My idea of the modern Stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.

The true hero in the Black Swan world is someone who prevents a calamity and, naturally, because the calamity did not happen, does not get recognition—or a bonus—for it.

Anything that needs to be marketed heavily is necessarily either an inferior product or an evil one.

If there is something in nature you don’t understand, odds are it makes sense in a deeper way that is beyond your understanding.

Click on Fooled by Randomness for Taleb’s home page.

Click on ANTIFRAGILE for the on-line text and a searchable table of contents of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book.  I don’t know how long it will be available.

Click on the following for my previous posts about Taleb

Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world

Aphorisms of Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Lessons for Wall Street from Hammurabi’s Code

Black Swans are Nassim N. Taleb’s word for unpredictable events.  He believes that people consistently underestimate the likelihood of unlikely events, both good and bad, and that it is possible to organize your life, including your financial affairs, to minimize unpredictable bad luck and take advantage of unpredictable good luck.

Iatrogenics are harms done by medical care and, in Nassim Taleb’s terminology, many other kinds of intervention and interference with a possibility of doing more harm than good.

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