Nassim Nicholas Taleb

TABLE
LIFE, HATE, LOVE, ETC. SUCCESS, INSUCCESS, HAPPINESS, AND STOICISM AGING THE REPUBLIC OF LETTERS THE UNIVERSAL AND THE PARTICULAR FOOLED BY RANDOMNESS 2
 7
 9
 10
 13
 14
 15
 18
 19
 21
 22
 24
 25
 26


Poetic & Philosophical Aphorisms

(RE)BECOMING FREE AESTHETICS ETHICS EPISTEMOLOGY

Work in Progress

THE GENERALIZED SUCKER PROBLEM ROBUSTNESS AND FRAGILITY THE LUDIC FALLACY AND ITS EXTENSIONS THE SACRED AND THE PROFANE

2010

POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS
DEALING WITH THE FUTURE 27


Life, Hate, Love, etc.

BEING A PHILOSOPHER AND MANAGING TO REMAIN ONE 28
 POLITICS, ECONOMICS, AND OTHER VERY VULGAR SUBJECTS

29
 1.

The opposite of success isn't failure, it is name dropping. 2.

You know you have influence when people start noticing your absence more than the presence of others. 3.

Badmouthing is the only genuine expression of admiration. 4.

They will envy you for your success, for your wealth, for your intelligence, for your looks, for your status --but rarely for your wisdom

5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. N. Taleb. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted.

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POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS
5. 10.

Most of what they call humility is successfully disguised arrogance. 6.

You will get the most attention from those who hate you. No friend, no admirer, and no partner will flatter you with equal curiosity. 11.

If you want people to read a book, tell them it is overrated. 7. True humility is when you can surprise yourself more than others; the rest is either shyness or good marketing. 12.

The mark of a mediocre mind is the subdued and passive reaction in front of the truly exceptional. 8.

Social media are antisocial, health foods are empirically unhealthy, knowledge workers are ignorant, & social sciences aren't scientific. 13.

Hatred is love with a typo somewhere in the computer code, correctable but very hard to find. 9.

The strangest thing about this love business is that the more intensely enthralled two being are with each other the harder they will try to hurt each other later on. They seem to care about the smallest wound now in the other but they will be inflicting the most scathing one later. Love is not for philosophers.

I wonder whether a bitter enemy would be jealous if he discovered that I hated someone else.

5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. N. Taleb. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted.

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there was no drinking but. 15. you should expect to hear something very complicated. The test of whether you really liked a book is if you reread it (and how many times). This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. 16. event named after a 4th Century (BC) Athenian drinking party in which nonnerds talked about love. When someone starts a sentence with "simply". 20. Taleb. The characteristic feature of the loser is to bemoan. in general terms.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 14. and nothing is more temporary than "permanent" ones. contradictions & irrationality -without exploiting them for fun and profit. I attended a symposium. We ask "why is he rich (or poor)?" not "why isn't he richer (poorer)?". 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. 4 . N. namedropping. alas. 19. nobody talked about love. Nothing is more permanent than "temporary" arrangements."why is the crisis so deep?" not "why isn't it deeper?". or that variety of sentiment now called selfesteem. mercifully. It is as difficult to change someone's opinions as it is to change his tastes. mankind's flaws. 18. 22. The most painful moments are not those we spend with uninteresting people. it is those spent with uninteresting people trying hard to be interesting. The most depressing aspect of the lives of the couples you watch surreptitiously arguing in restaurants is that they are almost always unaware of the true subject of argument. biases. and relationships. 17. deficits. truces. 21. the test of whether you really liked someone's company is if you are ready to meet him again and again --the rest is spin.

31. 24. Taleb. consider the difference between how impressive he (she) was at the first encounter and the most recent one. 30. not to himself. was the reason they put Socrates to death. This. 28. never of fake hate. but most do so to hide the lack of it. Some reticent people use silence to conceal their intelligence. 5 . It is the appearance of inconsistency. There is something terribly unattractive about thinking with too much clarity. the harder it is to implement.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 23. Usually. I suspect. It is easier to remember your emails that were not answered than emails you did not answer 32. The tragedy of virtue is that the more boring. People reserve standard compliments to those who do not threaten their pride. Nobody wants to his reasoning to become perfectly transparent --not to others. To value a person. 26. 29. The opposite of enemy is a dull life. unoriginal. Hatred is much harder to fake than love. 27. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. You hear of fake love. and sermonizing the proverb/tweet. that makes people attractive. the others they praise by calling "arrogant" 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. N. and not its absence. what we call "good listener" is someone with skillfully polished indifference. 25.

5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. 34. When a woman says about a man that he is intelligent. the other half is conviction and beliefs. you tend to prefer those who find you interesting over those you find interesting. How superb to become wise without being boring. I may forgive someone for harming me. how sad to be boring without being wise . 35. 38. 37. she means handsome. 6 . he means attractive. Taleb.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 33. [looking at Bernanke]. Half of what we call arrogant is arrogant. 39. when a man says about a woman that she is dumb. 36. For company. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. N. Unrequited hate is vastly more diminishing for the self than unrequited love. I can't possibly forgive anyone for boring me. You can't react by demonizing. It is as difficult to avoid bugging others with advice on how to exercise and other health matters as it is to stick to an exercise schedule.

Happiness. Success is becoming in middle adulthood what you dreamed to be in late childhood. N. You are rich if. 7 . money you refuse tastes better than money you accept. 43. 44. and only if. Insuccess. Most of the unhappiness in the modern world is the injustice that. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 40. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. only some of the males. Taleb. were able to procreate. 42. Success is when you switch from the camp of the hating to the camp of the hated. in the past. Equality was made for females. The rest comes from loss of control. Success. not males. and Stoicism It is only by accident that what ordinary people say they will do corresponds to what they will actually do. 41. but all the females.

It is much harder to be a Stoic when wealthy. A good foe is far more loyal. 48. Modernity: We created youth without heroism. 53. 8 . 45. The difference between love and happiness is that those who talk about love tend to be in love. but those who talk about happiness tend to be not happy. Taleb. to the clever. and respected than when destitute. 51. To see if you like where you are. and many things.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 49. age without wisdom. and life without grandeur. far more useful than any admirer 52. Money earned speculating against the crowd and the common man does not feel as sordid and vulgar as money coming from other forms of commerce. without the chains of dependence. far more predictable. finer men regret their silence more than their words. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. powerful. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. Ordinary men regret their words more than their silence. You can tell how uninteresting a person is by asking him who he finds interesting. I have been the luckiest man in the world in my selection of enemies. 46. 50. It is as if it came entirely from the purest philosophical insights. This also applies to work. and not as lowly as money coming from employment. check if you are as happy returning as you were leaving. N. and lonely. 47. and. relationships. miserable.

55. for their ideas. Decline starts with the replacement of dreams with memories. reverses with the replacement of dreams with other dreams. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. the Stoic way. I wonder if anyone measured the time it takes. but two Eastern Mediterraneans who died. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. 9 . 57. Since Cato. Aging Most people are made for insuccess. Pomponius Atticus. 56. they lose their charm and become unbearable when they succeed. more would accept to be "happy imbeciles". and ends with the replacement of memories with other memories. a certain sign of aging has been when one starts blaming the new generation for "shallowness" and praising the previous one for its "values" 61. N. 58. The only objective definition of aging is when a person starts to talk about aging. severely ill. The two most celebrated acts of courage in history aren't Homeric fighters. If existence were about happiness.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 54. Taleb. to take his own life. he was cured of his illness. at a party. 59. Having chosen starvation. tried. even sought death. before a mildly successful stranger who went to Harvard makes others aware of it. 60.

66. Some pursuits are much duller from the inside than outside. What they call philosophy.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS The Republic of Letters 62. to the nonsucker. 65. Writing is the art of repeating oneself without anyone noticing. Unless you are good at detecting dullness you will be trapped for life. I write to forget. not exactly the same thing. 64. 68. and what they call gossip I call voyeurism. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. A man without a heroic bent starts dying at the age of 30. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. what they call literature I call journalism. close enough on the surface but. I never understood why they wrote the obituaries of bureaucrats after their death. even piracy can be terribly uninteresting. 63. but I talk to no ordinary man over 40. I call literature. Taleb. what they call journalism I call gossip. I drink nothing from the past 4000 years (just wine and water). Most people write so they can remember things. I read nothing from the past 300 years. Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love. 10 . 67. N.

11 . Taleb. 73. Giving business readers my book is like giving vintage Bordeaux to drinkers of Diet Coke and listening to their comments about it. with a horribly boring process. and economics gives boring results with a boring process. 70. 2) be true (counterintuitively true). the unwritten. and the undisplayed. An aphorism is the poetry of ideas. and 3) be either symmetric (one assertion. Charm lies in the unsaid. one negation) or rhythmic. the intellect of the academic vastly surpasses his imagination 75. 76. Just as there are authors who enjoy "having written" and others who enjoy writing. No author should be considered as having failed until he starts teaching others about writing. 72. 78. 74. 71. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. politicians for their worst mistakes. 77. A good maxim should 1) surprise you. Hard science gives sensational results. A maxim allows me to have the last word without even starting a conversation. there are books you enjoy reading and others you enjoy having read. N.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 69. real literature gives sensational results with a sensational process. and businessmen are almost never remembered. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. Writers are remembered for their best work. It takes mastery to control silence. philosophy gives boring results with a sensational process. The imagination of the genius vastly surpasses his intellect.

academics to impress other academics. but authors who write to impress book editors tend to fail. models are thin to impress other models. not made. Taleb. I read the text and skip the footnotes. 82. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. 80. 81. with those written by academics I read the footnotes and skip the text. just plan to stay in print as long as possible --insure that I will be on the shelves long after these critics are dead. With regular books. 85.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 79. filmmakers to impress other filmmakers. "Business books": a category invented by bookstores for writings that have no depth. N. 87. I can predict when someone is about to plagiarize me. and elegance. literature aims to never go out of print. intellect. when they claim that Taleb "popularized" the theory of Black Swan events. no style. Just like poets and artists. and with business books I skip both the text and the footnotes. I wish to say some day about someone "Voilà un homme!" as Napoleon said upon meeting Goethe: a mixture of passion. Journalism is what disappears a day after it is printed. bureaucrats are born. The costs of specialization: Architects build to impress other architects. painters to impress art dealers. and no linguistic sophistication. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. 83. it takes normal humans extraordinary effort to keep attention on such boring tasks. 12 . 86. and poorly so. I aim to never answer critics. A genius is someone with flaws harder to imitate than his qualities. no empirical rigor. electronic journalism is what dies even before it is posted. 84.

friends. The Universal and the Particular You are as alive as the ratio of clichés in your writing. Taleb. and nothing deemed beneficial that cannot harm you in some circumstances. I discovered that they also hire people to read books for them (with abstracts) There is nothing deemed harmful (in general) that cannot be beneficial in some particular instances. Universals are weaker under complexity. 92. 13 . This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. Businessmen hire people to write books for them. N. BusinessBookReaders with my prose are like deaf persons in a Puccini opera: they may like a thing or two while wondering "what's the point?" 91. and contrasts with enemies. We unwittingly amplify commonalities with dissimilarities with strangers. 89. 90. Common minds find similarities in stories (and situations).POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 88. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. finer minds detect differences. 93.

Medieval man was a cog in a wheel he did not understand. Never rid anyone of an illusion unless you can replace it in his mind with another illusion. others' failure of common sense is in itself a failure of common sense. 94. the wise views himself more generic and others more unique 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. 101. The tragedy of the information age is that the toxicity of data increases much faster than its benefits. rather than the reverse. collective wisdom degrades by half. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. etc. 14 .POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 98. N. The role of the media is best seen in the journey from Cato the elder to Sarah Palin. the replacement illusion does not even have to be more convincing than the initial one. 96. 97. Fooled by Randomness The sucker's trap is when you focus on what you know and what others don't know. Using. Do some extrapolation if you want to be scared. check how much the 400-700 hours of nongossip media exposure in 2007 helped you make sense of 2008. and others more generic. 102. modern man is a cog in a more complicated system he thinks he understands. Before checking the news today. Taleb. as excuse. 100. Corollary to Moore's laws: every ten years. 95. The fool views himself more unique. But don't work too hard on it. 99.

(Re)Becoming Free Mental clarity is the child of courage. not the other way around. Comment: The biggest error since Socrates has been to believe that lack of clarity is the source of all our ills. and a monthly salary. not the result of them. 105. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. Taleb. The three most harmful addictions are heroin.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 103. carbohydrates. 107. N. 104. Finer men tolerate others' small inconsistencies though not the large ones. The difference between slaves (in Roman and Ottoman days) and today's employees is that slaves did not need to flatter their boss. Someone who says "I am busy" is either declaring incompetence (and lack of control of his life) or trying to get rid of you. 106. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. 108. lesser men tolerate others' large inconsistencies though not small ones I wonder if a lion (or a cannibal) would pay a high premium for free-range humans. 15 .

what your day looks like with any precision. 112. Only in recent history has "working hard" signaled pride rather than shame for lack of talent. commute. In nature we never repeat the same motion. the more dead you are. 114. In captivity (office.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 109. They lose freedom trying harder. Taleb. life is just repetitive stress injury. 110. sports) look like work. You will be civilized on the day when you can spend a long period doing nothing. without feeling the slightest amount of guilt. There is no intermediate state between ice and water but there one is between life and death: employment. in the morning. 16 . 113. 118. 111. sports). and improving nothing. finesse and. you are a little bit dead -the more precision. gym. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. If you know. I never see the world with more clarity than when I misplace my eyeglasses. No randomness. the harder they try. sprezzatura. what I call work (effortless daydreaming) looks like play. 116. my idea of the sabbatical is to work for (part of) a day and rest for six. the more captive they become. You have a real life if & only if you do not compete with anyone in any of your pursuits. N. 115. Their idea of the sabbatical is to work six days and rest for one. mostly. 117. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. learning nothing. travel. What they call play (gym. You have a real life when most of what you fear has the titillating prospect of adventure.

POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 119. 123. For everything. I use my feeling of boredom in place of a clock. Thinking is largely ornamental. just small surprises and stimuli from environment. for show-off. Most modern technologies are deferred punishment. no schedule. We are better at (involuntarily) doing out of the box than (voluntarily) thinking out of the box. or for ego-propping narratives. Technology's double punishment is to make us both age prematurely and live longer. 122. 124. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. N. Competitive athletes are closer to animals than men. though under constraints of politeness. as a biological wristwatch. though never as fast as a cheetah or as strong as an ox. Taleb. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. ex post justification. we are only truly alive in these moments when we improvise. 121. 17 . 120. We are hunters.

Beauty is enhanced by a touch of imperfection. but he did so using the greatest poetry. Taleb. 127. 126. N. In classical renderings of prominent figures.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 129. Almutanabbi boasted that he was the greatest poet. Aesthetics Wit seduces by signaling intelligence without nerdiness. in modern photographs. males are lean & females are plump. The genius of Mandelbrot lies in showing that we can achieve aesthetic clarity without the cost of smoothness. 130. 128. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. It is a great feat to reach simplicity without recourse to smoothness. 125. the opposite. 18 .

and have someone in their lives they do not need to impress. N. (Comment: A generous act is precisely what should aim at no reward. instead of according his beliefs to his profession. 137. There is nothing wrong with "generous" acts with "warm glow" or salvation. I trust people who make a living lying down or standing up more than those who do so sitting down. This explains dog ownership. I trust everyone except those who tell me they are trustworthy. 131. You can only convince those persons who think they can benefit from being convinced. better be a flâneur in New York than a hotshot at Davos 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. Rarer and rarer since middle ages. Taleb. I wonder if those who advocate generosity for its rewards notice the inconsistency. 134. neither financial nor social nor emotional. Those on bondage and βάναυσοι would do anything to "feed a family". This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. these are not to be linguistically conflated with deontic actions) I'd rather be a janitor in a philosophy department than chaired professor at the Harvard Business School. Don't trust a man on a salary -except if it is minimum wage. 132. 133. 19 .POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 135. People often need to suspend their self-promotion. or if what they call generosity is an investment strategy. 136. Ethics Ethical man accords his profession to his beliefs. 138. (From a flâneur who reads in bed). deontic not utilitarian.

POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 139. 140. who demonizes Nissim Bertrand. pre-deontic pre-classical morality. The difference between magnificence & arrogance is in what one does when nobody is looking. perhaps the remnant of archaic. Morel. In Proust there is a character. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. Pure generosity is when you help the ingrate. 143. 142. [Kantian ethics] 141. a Jew who lent him money. Promising someone good luck as return for good deeds sounds like a bribe. N. I wonder if crooks can conceive that honest people can be shrewder than them. 20 . Taleb. he becomes anti-Semitic just so he could escape the feeling of gratitude. Greatness starts with the replacement of hatred with disdain 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. Every other form is self-serving . 144.

Taleb. 151. not what we add (what to do). Since Plato Western thought has focused on the notions of TrueFalse. (Stockbrokers. Corollary: The best way to spot a charlatan: someone who tells you what to do. the nonsucker knows Truth is search for ignorance.) 145. distrust all ending. My problem of knowledge is that there are many more books on birds written by ornithologists than books on birds written by birds and books on ornithologists written by birds. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. 149. 146. with a horribly boring process.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 148. it is high time to shift the concern to Robust-Fragile. 21 . with defined endings. as commendable as it was. APlatonic ones expect film to be life and. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. and social epistemology to Sucker-Nonsucker. instead of what NOT to do. Epistemology Substractive epistemology: the sucker thinks Truth is search for knowledge. Happiness. but we know extremely well how to avoid unhappiness. philosophy gives boring results with a sensational process. Consultants. 152. Platonic minds expect life to be like film. nor how to reach it. 150. what not to do).. but literature gives sensational results with a sensational process. not additive.. Hard science gives sensational results. N. we don't know what it means. except for death. Knowledge is subtractive. 147. what we subtract (reduction by what does not work.

154. 22 . Rumors are only valuable when they are denied. 155. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. Education makes the wise slightly wiser. but it makes the fool vastly more dangerous. It seems that it is the most unsuccessful people who give the most advice. In science you need to understand the world. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. in business you need others to misunderstand it. Taleb. particularly for writing and financial matters. N. 156.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS The Generalized Sucker Problem 153.

amputate to replace. Mediocre men tend to be outraged by small insults. 163. People usually apologize so they can do it again. subdued. Taleb. like Robert C. but passive.. Merton. 161. and silent in front of very large ones We gloss over great financial crimes (bankers). Those who do not think that employment is systemic slavery are either blind or employed. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. (Generalized Sucker Problem). The difference between technology and slavery is that slaves are fully aware that they are not free. 164. They are never the same. 160. You are guaranteed a repetition when you hear the declaration "never again". 159. There are two types of people. 23 . Some frauds.. N. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. It is easier to disguise ignorance than knowledge. 158. Mathematics is to knowledge what an artificial hand is to the real one.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 157. 162. great cases of incompetence (Bernanke and the economics establishment). those who try to win and those who try to win arguments.

as in mathematics and philosophy). You are only secure if you can lose your fortune without the additional worse insult of having to become humble. Robustness and Fragility The best test of robustness to reputational damage is your emotional state (fear. instead of travel first then use “the best” map. "because there is nothing else". One should first pick a destination for which one has a good map. 167. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. I call it more politely epistemocracy. 165. and dangerous when they try to be useful. For the robust. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. 166. for the fragile. joy. an error is an error. N. boredom) when you get an email from a journalist. (say. Academics are only useful when they try to be useless. They have a hard time accepting my idea that the only robust society is the imbecile proof society. Taleb.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 169. (My great-great-great-grandfather's rule). 24 . 168. 170. an error is information.

economics. 171. Upon arriving to the hotel the fellow had a porter carry his luggage. etc). Sadly. climate. a selfinflicted injury. Taleb. 176. Obama is talking and dreaming about going to the Moon and Mars (these belong to the linear domain) when we know nothing about the complex (volcanoes. I later saw him lifting weights in the gym. errors in fields that matter are Black-Gray-Swannish. Real mathematicians understand completeness. The Ludic Fallacy and Its Extensions Compliance with the straightjacket of narrow (Aristotelian) logic and avoidance of fatal inconsistencies are not the same thing. real philosophers understand incompleteness. N.Sorry. 174. competitive academia fossilizes the soul. 25 . but disagree that classroom training (almost) only improves classroom skills. They agree that chess training only improves chess skills. governments have exhausted the Gaussian domains). 172. competitive sports. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 175. (How? errors in space program are Gaussian. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. 177. 173. Just as smooth surfaces. and specialized work fossilize the mind and body. Space builds hubris. the rest don't really understand anything. Technology is the unrelenting mollification of man.

Comment: after a long media diet I realize that there is nothing that's not (clumsily) trying to sell you something. The book is the only medium left that hasn't been corrupted by the profane: everything else on your eyelids manipulates you with an ad. I won't. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. N.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 182. but you can discuss the profane in terms made for the holy. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. depth. 26 . Atheism/materialism means treating the dead as if they were unborn. 184. Same with art . If you can't detect (w/out understanding) the difference between sacred and profane you'll never know what religion means. There is nothing wrong w/book as peacock tail signaling of superiority and ego trip. 180. 183. no human came with the brilliance. 179. By respecting the sacred you reinvent religion. You cannot express the holy in terms made for the profane. I only trust my library. Taleb. and formal attire on Sunday. 178. The Sacred and the Profane I now take a hot bath after reading emails from businessmen or journalists. I then feel purified from the profane until the next email. and imagination matching Plato to displace him and protect us from that Platonic legacy. In 2500 years. it's the commercial agenda outside the book that corrupts it. People used to wear ordinary clothes weekdays. 181. wit. Today it is the exact reverse. elegance.

Dealing with the Future The economy. It is wiser to wait for self-destruction. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. in brief: they are calmly waiting in line to be slaughtered while thinking it is for a Broadway show. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. 27 . for some. For the ancients. but myth is only displaced with a narrative. For Seneca. You can replace lies with truth. for me it is an insult to man --that is. the Stoic sage should withdraw from public efforts when unheeded and the state is corrupt beyond repair. 189. I never voice a forecast unless I have taken action on it and I have something at risk. forecasting historical events was an insult to the God(s). N. 187. Taleb. 186. They would take forecasting more seriously if it were pointed out to them that they were producing prophecies. 188. 190. to science.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 185. I go down with the ship.

Something finite but with unknown upper bound is epistemically equivalent to something infinite. and reasoning only. These hypocrites drive a car with a tank full of Saudi oil. N. while critical their gender policies. To be a philosopher is to know by reasoning. Being a Philosopher and Managing to Remain one 192. a posteriori. what others can only learn from their mistakes. 28 . A few idiots criticized me because of the Saudi treatment of women. I went to Saudi Arabia to pick up wisdom from old people about forecasting. True philosophers only need long walks to figure out what others need crises. but don't want me to take what wisdom I can find. 193. and bankruptcies to determine. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 191. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. Taleb. a priori. accidents. 194. I call this epistemic Infinity.

199. 29 . Conscious ignorance. Academia is as close to sophistry today as the sophists were in Socrates' day. The 21st will be that of the technological one. You can be certain that the CEO of a corporation has a lot to worry about when he announces publicly that "there is nothing to worry about". it can make things infinite. Politics. if you can practice it. 201. Taleb. and Other Very Vulgar Subjects 196. N. expands your world. 197. which is why I cringe when I hear the word used by social scientists. 200. There is no strictly "rational" definition of "rationality". in fact ironically the academy was there to counter sophistry. The main difference between government bailouts and smoking is that in some rare cases the statement "this is my last cigarette" holds true. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. I threatened to walk out of a lecture hall under Seneca's dictum that philosophers should avoid speaking like mountebanks. The 20th C was the bankruptcy of the social utopia. From one Procrustean bed to another: efforts at building social.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 195. Economics. 198. many cures and techniques came from martial efforts. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. political. 2400 years and we've learned nothing. and medical utopias have caused nightmares.

30 . The collective (that is. 207. 210. but the mafia understands public opinion. The differences between Goldman Sachs and the mafia are as follows: GS has a better legal-regulatory expertise. but the biggest error-prone centralized top-down institution in the world is the US Gov. The four most influential moderns: Darwin. and the too big to fail. deficits. nation-states produce bureaucracies. The worst damage has been caused by competent people trying to do good. What makes us fragile is that institutions cannot have the same virtues (honor. City-states organize by tinkering. Northern Europeans bow to instructions but scorn authority. the best welfare has been brought by incompetent ones trying to harm. Taleb. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. Bernankes. Freud and (the early) Einstein were scholars but not academics. feels shame and honor. 203.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 206. truthfulness. Economics cannot digest the idea that the collective (and the aggregate) are disproportionately less predictable than individuals. 202. courage. An individual has a conscience. 205. It keeps getting bigger. N. institutions) does not aggregate them -despicable bureaucrats. 208. We worry about "too big". empty suits. loyalty. It is hard to do genuine work within institutions. Marx. The Lebanese (and other Mediterraneans) scorn instructions but bow to authority. 209. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. tenacity) as individuals. 204.

I saw Edmund Phelps who got the "Nobel" for writings no one reads. Taleb. (Some thoughts on the Madoff story). Imbeciles. "It is much easier to scam people for billions than for just millions". "Don't cross a river because it is on average four feet deep". 212. theories no one uses. 213. America and Western Europe need to borrow to just survive. 215. "You need skills to get a BMW. the arts. skills and monstrous luck to become a Warren Buffet" was turned into "Taleb says Buffet has no skills". Socializing with an academic will lead you to avoid confronting him from fear of losing a friend. Bailouts make the process more entertaining. the practical. At a panel in Moscow. the average of expectations is different from the expectation of averages. CNBC journalists are imbeciles. 216. you will end up putting your social instinct above truth. 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N. business. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 211. are programmed for apoptosis. the leftover becomes an economist. Dubai borrowed to put vanity buildings on postcards. and lectures no one understands. Companies. 217. More generally. N. The curious mind embraces science. 31 . suicide through debt and hidden risks. the gifted & sensitive. 218. 214. like human cells.

32 . Taleb. This draft version cannot be disseminated or quoted. N.POETIC & PHILOSOPHICAL APHORISMS 5/17/10 © Copyright 2009 by N.

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