Friday, August 3, 2012
The Black Swan - Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Categorizing always produces reduction in true complexity.
...a profession that is "scalable", that is, one in which
you are not paid by the hour...
A scalable profession is good only if you are successful;
they are more competitive, produce monstrous inequalities,
and are far more random...
...-death is often a good career move for an author.
...Popper...uncertainty is our discipline, and that
understanding how to act under conditions of incomplete
information is the highest and most urgent human pursuit.
Talk is cheap, a problem with advice-giving philosophy we
Our minds are like inmates, captive to our biology, unless
we manage a cunning escape.
...perception of causation has a biological foundation.
We, members of the human variety of primates, have a hunger
for rules because we need to reduce the dimension of
matters so they can get into our heads.
If you run a public corporation, things were great for you
before you had shareholders, when you and your partners
were the sole owners...
Plenty of mildly good news is preferable to one single lump
of great news.
...a problem with the way we construct samples and gather
evidence IN EVERY DOMAIN. [Italics in the book are in ALL
CAPS here.] ...the difference between what you see and what
We tend to "tunnel" while looking into the future...in fact
there is nothing usual about the future.
Epistemic arrogance bears a double effect: we overestimate
what we know, and underestimate uncertainty, by compressing
the rang of possible uncertain states (i.e. by reducing the
space of the unknown).
But things changed with the intrusion of the spreadsheet.
...the information that the solution exists is itself a big
piece of the solution.
There is so little room in our consciousness; it is winner
-take-all up there.
...analysis in situ...
..."fallacy of misplaced concreteness", e.g., the mistake
of confusing a model with the physical entity that it means
In a way, projecting allows us to cheat evolution: it now
takes place in our head, as a series of projections and
HOMO SUM, HUMANI A ME NIL ALIENUM PUTO - I am a man, and
nothing human is foreign to me.
Some truths only hit children - adults and nonphilosophers
get sucked into the minutiae of practical life and need to
worry about "serious matters"...seemingly more relevant
We laugh at others and we don't realize that someone will
be just as justified in laughing at us on some not too
...statement by the uberphilosopher Bertand Russell...
Trial and error means trying a lot. In THE BLIND
WATCHMAKER, Richard Dawkins...
The theory of preferential attachment is ubiquitous in its
We humans are not photocopiers...To be contagious, a mental
category must agree with our nature.
- as long as there is life, there is hope.
...the emphasis on economic inequality, at the expense of
other types of inequality...Fairness is not exclusively an
economic matter...It is the pecking order that matters!
G.H.Hardy wrote in "a Mathematician's Apology": ..."real";
"useless"; "applied"; "pure"
One can almost always ferret out predecessors for any
...the Mandelbrot set...
[Header; perhaps a play on S Pastis' excellent Pearls
Before Swine] Pearls to Swine
...the intuition of the following error: traveling the road
between representation and reality in the wrong direction.
I sat down and discussed this with the great man, and it
became, as usual, a linguistic game. [Deja vu for me,
exacerbated by the presence of not one but many great men
who are all almost always too willing to discuss anything -
ANYTHING - to its death, and beyond.]
...it is contagion that determines the fate of a theory in
social science, not its validity.
The entire statistical business confused absence of proof
as proof of absence.
...Locke's definition of a madman: someone "reasoning
correctly from erroneous premises".
If there is one thing on this planet that is not so
uncertain, it is the behavior of a collection of subatomic
...the philosopher's case is far, far more dangerous since
he uses up our storage for critical thinking in a sterile
occupation. Philosophers like to practice philosophical
thinking on me-too subjects that other philosophers call
philosophy, and they leave their minds at the door when
they are outside of these subjects.
Wittgenstein is occasionally mentioned (you can always
mention Wittgenstein since he is vague enough to always
...philosophers who "study" philosophy instead of being
forced into philosophy by the pressure of nonphilosophical
I worry less about embarassment than about missing an
Snub your destiny.
You stand ABOVE the rat race and the pecking order, not
OUTSIDE of it, if you do so by choice.
It is more difficult to be a loser in a game you set up
You always control what YOU do; so make this your end.