Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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What then in the last resort are the truths of mankind? They are the irrefutable errors of mankind.
Friedrich Nietzsche
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Nassim Nicholas Taleb (born 1960) is an essayist and mathematical trader.


  • My major hobby is teasing people who take themselves and the quality of their knowledge too seriously and those who don’t have the guts to sometimes say: I don’t know....
  • You may not be able to change the world but can at least get some entertainment & make a living out of the epistemic arrogance of the human race.
    • Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Home Page

Fooled by Randomness

  • It does not matter how frequently something succeeds if failure is too costly to bear.
  • Unlike a well-defined, precise game like Russian roulette, where the risks are visible to anyone capable of multiplying and dividing by six, one does not observe the barrel of reality.
  • A mistake is not something to be determined after the fact, but in the light of the information until that point.
  • I always remind myself that what one observes is at best a combination of variance and returns, not just returns.
  • I try to make money infrequently, as infrequently as possible simply because I believe that rare events are not fairly valued, and that the rarer the event, the more undervalued it will be in price.
  • The more data we have, the more likely we are to drown in it.
  • At no point during his ordeal did Nero think of himself as 72% alive and 28% dead.
  • Science evolves from funeral to funeral.
  • Probability is not about the odds, but about the belief in the existence of an alternative outcome, cause, or motive.
  • We favor the visible, the embedded, the personal, the narrated, and the tangible; we scorn the abstract.

The Black Swan

  • Consider that the turkey's experience may have, rather than no value, a negative value. It learned from observation, as we are all advised to do (hey, after all, this is what is believed to be the scientific method). Its confidence increased as the number of friendly feedings grew, and it felt increasingly safe even though the slaughter was more and more imminent. Consider that the feeling of safety reached its maximum when the risk was at the highest!
  • The casino is the only human venture I know where the probabilities are known, Gaussian (i.e., bell-curve), and almost computable.
  • Don't cross a river if it is four feet deep on average.
  • Probability is a liberal art.
  • Forecasting by bureaucrats tends to be used for anxiety relief rather than for adequate policy making.
  • The same past data can confirm a theory and its exact opposite! If you survive until tomorrow, it could mean that either a) you are more likely to be immortal or b) that you are closer to death.
  • In practice, randomness is fundamentally incomplete information.
  • Gain exposure to the envelope of serendipity.


External links

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