October 25, 2013

Thoughtful tweets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

A Black Swan. Source: Wikipedia

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is the author of books like Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan. The latter book has nothing to do with the movie - it is a book about predictions. The basic idea is that it is impossible to predict the future since we can't predict Black Swan events. Once upon a time, everyone thought that if you looked at a swan, it had to be white. Then we discovered Australia and the black swans living there. There was no way someone could have predicted that swans also could be black by only looking at white swans in Europe.
"One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sighting of millions of white swans. All you need is one single black bird."

When Nassim Nicholas Taleb is not writing books, he's using Twitter. If you don't follow him, you can find him under the Twitter-nickname @nntaleb. Compared with Warren Buffett (@WarrenBuffett), Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a more active user and has made more than 2,300 tweets. Warren Buffett has only made 4 tweets.

This is a collection of a few memorable tweets. Notice that I've taken the freedom to improve the readability of a few tweets. For example, in Twitter it's common to write "w" instead of "with" because the number of characters is limited to 140. In this collection I've changed all these to improve the readability for those who are not used to this "language."
People love variety with restaurants: they eat Chinese, Italian,…, but when it comes to religion they stick to one for worship and holidays.
Intellect without balls is like a racecar without tires. 
I want to write books that only those who read them claim they did. 
When I die, I want the highest number of firemen, risk takers, & other real people and the smallest number of academics to attend my funeral.
Looks like the only people who do not think that economists are bullshitters are economists.
Imbeciles summarize the black swan by "shit happens." Intelligent people say "Let us learn how not to be a Turkey."
Studying neurobiology to understand humans is like studying ink to understand literature.
Be polite, but ignore comments, praise, and criticism from people you woudn't hire.
Concern for financial panics in place of nonfragiltiy of system is like worrying about being caught rather than avoiding the action itself.
Discussing growth without concern for fragility: like studying construction without thinking of collapses. Think like engineer not economist.
To be genuine, if you dismiss criticism by the herd, you must also ignore its praise.
The problem with the idea of "learning from one's mistakes" is that most of what people call mistakes aren't mistakes.
The only people who think that real world experience doesn't matters are those who never had real world experience.
Those with brains and no balls become mathematicians, those with balls and no brains join the mafia, those with no balls and no brains become economists, and those with balls and brains become entrepreneurs and traders.
Hotel heuristic: In a new hotel, always reject the first room they give you.
In a conflict, people who claim they "don't have an opinion either way" tend to side against the injured or weaker side.
Attention authors: if a reviewer writes a unfair review of your work, contact me, I can be very unfair in reviewing his review.
Why is it that book reviewers get flustered when authors review *them* back, exposing nonsense/competence?
When hospitals go on strike and limit activities to vital treatments, area-life expectancy rises. Hopefully, same with government shutdown.
War make the most sense for arms dealers, markets make the most sense for stockbrokers, and schools make the most sense for administrators.
Many take refuge in software and mathematical objects because, unlike humans, you can trust that they won't betray you or stab you in the back.
Virtue is when the income you wish to show the tax agency exceeds what you wish to show your neighbor.
The absurdity of money is that it is only good for you if you don't spend it.
Finance professors have the highest salaries in academia, we overpay for them to stay on campus.
The way people reveal unconsciously that an action would be in their best interest is by telling you that it is "in *your* best interest".
Something despicable in finance people who, hearing about a massacre in Egypt, focus on its effects on the country's bond yields.
My rule: I never make a forecast or recommendation with risks unless I have something to lose if I am wrong. Never.
Business books on success makes readers both depressed and unsuccessful.
You can smell failure when someone only talks about his successes; success when he talk about his mistakes.
The danger of reading financial & other news: that things that don't make sense start making sense to you after progressive immersion.
As a child I wondered whether the difference between modern art and caricature was cultural construction for the rich. Still wondering.
Using "hunger" to justify GMO is like using economic hardship to justify Russian roulette.
Why are are all angrier with governments spying on us than with the more insidious, totally unchecked (and less fragile) Internet companies?
Unless you are a schoolteacher, you want to make the maximal number of costless mistakes. Life is not about right or wrong, but payoff.
The value of higher education is learning from academics to become what they are not, to use them as moral and practical inverse role models.
The greatest missed opportunity in history: the 2008 bankruptcy of Goldman Sachs. The world today would have recovered to be a better place.
The only valid political system is one that can handle an imbecile in power without suffering from it.
Time for the education system to realize that slow learners are deeper, more robust, & unlike nerds, make small, rather than large mistakes.
For bitcoin to make it it needs to be banned by a few governments and critiqued by policy makers. Otherwise it will fade.
Journalism is an honorable profession with dishonorable people; mafia/prostitution are dishonorable professions with honorable people.
If you find something "interesting" but save it to "read later", odds are that something in you isn't interested & you will not read it later.
Over-nutrition now killing far more people than hunger, and comfort is killing much more than violence.
Instead of journalism progressing into becoming more scientific, it is that science that is becoming more and more journalistic.