antifragile notes and review

Reading antifragile review from amazon kindle..
I was once a huge fan of Taleb(with Fooled by randomness and Black swan books), but right now this sounds a like i should only skim-read it.. he seems to spend an awful lot of time on taking potshots/putting down academics rather than getting to his point…Kinda ironic when you really, really think about it..

though his preface just leaves enough tempting idea to make me wanna atleast purchase the kindle edition*.. Besides, i love a rebel almost always… and he promises to callout names.. ooh gossip.. but really… and given he claims his rule for the book references is if he hadn’t been curious about it in the past to look it up, and is loooking as he’s writing it doesn’t pass… because he’s writing from experience.. oh well that explains why some review on amazon called it a long, rude autobiography…
though his story-telling style is indeed long-winded for some kinds of consumption… or as an academic would critique it if it were a book, it is too verbose and too longly written…

but overall, despite it i have enjoyed his story-telling style/panache/modus operandi/ whatever else you call it. that is why i would be happy buying the kindle ebook..

if i am to use or form a metaphor for the fragile, robust, anti-fragile nature and classification as i understand it so far, i would use s/w or s/w programmers. Respectively in the fields of Operating systems(including device drivers, filesystems,schedulers,compilers??,kernel), Mission-critical control systems(automotive embedded s/w(for auto-park, auto drive etc..)) and ERP software…

Now, i have read the trial part of the book, i am convinced am buying it.. but no rush.. right now due to a mess with home change and credit card re-issue, am without a credit card, but will get one in a couple of weeks time and then i can get the book…

after all, i have enough stuff i want to get done in the mean time.. .and this book likes one of those i gotta finish it now, till i finish nothing in between kinda read… so might as well wait..

Though i really wish amazon preview did not choose chapters from the start but random bunch of pages.. may be in blocks of 10 pages each, but a more wider sampling throughout the book.. Oh well…I can’t do much about that.

25-Jan-2013 00:20 hrs..
Finally,i got the book.. badgered,bribed and did stuff to Nelson to get his credit card but got it.. it takes about 50-70MB of internet too.. so along with the 10$ price, i have to add this money to the list/cost too.

07-Feb-2013 2326 hrs

alos i started cor ereached that part of oantifragile that is begining to be interesting and less of rhetoric .. he’s beginin gothue talk baout fat tony and nero two chars interes in his prefious book tnhe first one in the black swan… i noko fat tony is supposte do be tho hero and smat oren ote to want to be lik.. but as in the past i have found my self identinig witgp parts of bothe or tartehu parts ofe th personalities of both.. identiifyyng which one is real and which one is’ jsut me wishing i was like is the tricky part and will be an intretinshg thing to figure out as i read nad ocmup the erst of the book.

*– i have other philosophical/principal wise problems with the idea of ebooks as defined by amazon, but for this book i wouldn’t mind paying the money, because of how i think i’ll end up using it. so am kinda taking this as a test of how the kindle version of ebooks work for me too. so let’s see how it pans out..

And here’s the set of highlights and notes as generously provided by amazon

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
You have 499 highlighted passages
You have 66 notes
Last annotated on June 19, 2013
albatross’s giant wings prevent him from walking”—many

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“disfluency.”

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“My son, I am very disappointed in you,” he said. “I never hear anything wrong said about you. You have proven yourself incapable of generating envy.”

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a tête à baffe,

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by Brent Carey, a graduate student,

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self-strengthening that occurs in biological structures.” This

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causal opacity:

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certainly better than the mild but continuous stress of a boss,

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pressures brought about by civilization.

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but my mood, my sadness, my bouts of anxiety, are a second source of intelligence—perhaps

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(sanglots).

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saudade

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hüzün

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obsequious verbosity is

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something rather painful under the condition of jet lag. Yet the best

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touristification. This is my term

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education system, planning the funding of teleological scientific research, the French baccalaureate,

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This “goal-driven” attitude hurts deeply inside my existential self.

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cooked without salt. I, a thrill-seeking human, have a b***t detector that seems to match my boredom detector, as if we were equipped with a naturalistic filter, dullness-aversion.

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Much of modern life is preventable chronic stress injury.

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other units or the whole. The fragility of every startup is necessary for the economy to be antifragile, and that’s what makes, among other things, entrepreneurship work: the fragility of individual entrepreneurs and their necessarily

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Sadly, the benefits of errors are often conferred on others, the collective—as if individuals were designed to make errors for the greater good, not their own.

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Hormesis likes only a little bit of disorder, or, rather, needs a little bit of it.

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linear minds do not like nuances and reduce the information to the binary “harmful” or “helpful.”

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The code doesn’t really care about the welfare of the unit itself—quite the contrary, since it destroys many things around it.

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thousand years. But it usually dies after reproducing offspring with a genetic code in one way or another different from that of the parents, with their information modified. Methuselah’s genetic information is still present in Damascus, Jerusalem,

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of epistemic arrogance. If one looks at

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nature (and nature-like systems) likes diversity between organisms rather than diversity within an immortal organism, unless you consider nature itself the immortal organism,

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antifragile up to a point but such point is quite high—it can take a lot, a lot of

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therapy: quite often cancer cells that manage to survive the toxicity of chemotherapy and radiation

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Organisms Are Populations and Populations Are Organisms

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fractal self-similarity,

Note: I was expecting. that..:-) Edit
Finally, a thought. 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.

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ingratitudo vulgi, the ingratitude of the masses, is increasing in the age of

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Most of you will fail, disrespected, impoverished, but we are grateful for the risks you are taking and the sacrifices you are making for the sake of the economic growth of the planet and pulling others out of poverty. You are at the source of our antifragility. Our nation thanks you.

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“volatility” comes from volare, “to fly” in Latin. Depriving political

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Procrustean bed of cushy and comfortable—but ultimately harmful—modernity.

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treating an organism like a simple machine is a kind of simplification or approximation or

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we often blow them up with our fear of randomness and love of smoothness.

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volatility in their income but they are rather robust to a minor professional Black Swan, one that

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Employees’ risks are hidden.

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Remember that stressors are information;

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and positive surprises, free options—the

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Yogi Berra once said: “We made the wrong mistake”—and

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mercy of a mental bias that disfavors antifragility.

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applies, this avoidance of small mistakes makes the large ones more severe.

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largest human experiment in centralized state control. It

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dictatorship from the bottom, not from the top, but a dictatorship nevertheless. But

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nation-state, but rather a collection of small municipalities left to their own devices. BOTTOM-UP VARIATIONS

Note: sounds like America of the gold rush or 70s Edit
numbers, more interesting, more academic perhaps, but, alas, less effective.

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An administration is shielded from having to feel the sting of shame (with flushing in his face),

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Eye contact with one’s peers changes one’s behavior. But

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others are abstract items; given the lack of social contact with the people concerned, the

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infatuation with anecdotes, our thirst for the sensational,

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stability is achieved by managing noise, having a mechanism for letting it run its natural course,

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other words, on techne (crafts and know how), not episteme (book knowledge, know what).

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you can double your net worth or lose half of it in a single moment.

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mistaking absence of evidence (of harm) for evidence of absence,

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Contracts were enforced, and that is what governments are needed for the most.

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categorical: “We people of Aleppo prefer war to prison.” I thought that he meant that they were going to put him in jail, but then I realized that by “prison” he meant the loss of political and economic freedoms.

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species prosper isn’t peace, but freedom.”

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Fluctuat nec mergitur (fluctuates, or floats,

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stochastic resonance,

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Weak SOS signals, too weak to get picked up by remote receptors, can

Note: if you are lost at sea with limited signal, time your sos to the presence of noise. Edit
simulated annealing to bring more general optimal

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street, “I love randomness!”

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how adding a certain number of randomly selected politicians to the process can improve the functioning of the parliamentary system.

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Murder is the standard procedure for succession in the mafia (the last publicized annealing was

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now stay longer, a fact that impedes many domains: CEOs, tenured academics, politicians, journalists—and we need to offset this condition with

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system, but being stuck with the same two parties. Parties don’t have organic built-in

Note: despite a multi party system India has the same issue. Edit
sortes virgilianae (fate as decided by the epic poet Virgil), involved opening Virgil’s Aeneid at random and

Note: Gabriel’s robinhood.. Edit
sophisticated ways and tricks to exploit randomness. For instance, I actually practice such randomizing heuristic in restaurants.

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subjecting me to what psychologists call the tyranny of choice, with the stinging feeling after my decision that I should have ordered something else, I blindly and systematically duplicate the selection by the most overweight male at the table; and when no such person is present, I randomly pick from the menu without reading the

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political instability, even war, lets explosive material and tendencies accumulate under the surface.

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artificially suppressed volatility is not just that the system tends to become extremely fragile; it is that, at the same time, it exhibits no visible risks.

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Seeking stability by achieving stability (and forgetting the second step) has been a great sucker game for economic and foreign policies. The list is

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revolution, a regional breakup, some turmoil, then perhaps—by now—some stability.

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one confuse the system? Actually “how long” is irrelevant: this stability is similar to a loan one has to eventually pay

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particularly casuistry, when someone finds

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Time for American policy makers to understand that the more they intervene in other countries for the sake of stability, the more they bring instability (except

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the role of policy makers in policy affairs.

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packages: no stability without volatility.

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Modernity is a Procrustean bed, good or bad—a reduction of humans to what appears to be efficient and useful. Some

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Procrustean beds are not all negative reductions. Some may be beneficial, though these are rare.

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separation of “work” and “leisure” (though the two would look

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this is the denial of antifragility.

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dependence on narratives, an intellectualization of actions

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Remember that you need a name for the color blue when you build a narrative, but

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“blue” is handicapped; not the doer. (I’ve had a hard time conveying to intellectuals the intellectual superiority of practice.)

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Modernity starts with the state monopoly on violence, and ends with the state’s monopoly on fiscal irresponsibility.

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fundamentalist: the unconditional belief in the idea of scientific prediction regardless of the domain, the aim to squeeze the future into numerical reductions whether reliable

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illustrates the lack of awareness of the need to look for a break-even point between benefits and harm.

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iatrogenics, literally, “caused by the

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And the final lesson is that one should not expect laurels for bringing the truth. Medicine is comparatively

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imagined or invented psychiatric disease, say, ADHD or depression,

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To sum up, anything in which there is naive interventionism, nay, even just intervention, will have iatrogenics.

Note: agreed, but that was a very long winded way of putting it. Edit
Ayn Rand, obsessive and intense critics help a book

Note: I always wondered why there were so many critics. Edit
Uninhibited by their common prejudices, they managed to produce interesting work.

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idea behind capitalism is an inverse-iatrogenic effect, the unintended-but-not-so-unintended consequences:

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necessarily benevolent ones) at the individual level into beneficial results for the collective.

Note: ironic if it is indeed true… Edit
low degree of competence with a high rate of intervention and a disrespect for spontaneous operation and healing—let alone growth and improvement.

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For a theory is a very dangerous thing to have.

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Errors in physics get smaller from theory to theory—so

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people can fool themselves endlessly.

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Ingenuous interventionism is very pervasive across professions.

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Reduction in size and scope may make it even more intrusive than large government.)

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rule, intervening to limit size

Note: am not very sure Edit
Experiments show that alertness is weakened when one relinquishes control to the system

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antifragility of attention at work,

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much easier to sell “Look what I did for you” than “Look what I avoided for you.” Of

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heroes for what they did not do, but it is hard to observe nonaction; I could not easily find

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ethics, about the unfairness of a bonus system and how such unfairness is magnified

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festina lente, “make haste slowly.”

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wu-wei, “passive achievement.”

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(The problem is that some people misuse the naturalistic fallacy outside the moral domain and misapply it to this idea of reliance on naturalistic instinct when one is in doubt.)

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encompasses high doses of disorder—and nature is the only system that has been stamped “robust” by time. But some philosophasters

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And this personal or intellectual inability to distinguish noise from signal is behind overintervention. A Legal Way to Kill People

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where the economy is going,” and of course he micromanaged us into chaos.

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In business and economic decision making, reliance on data causes severe side effects—data is now plentiful thanks to connectivity,

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data: it is toxic in large quantities—even in moderate quantities.

Note: meaning in quantities large for human attention span Edit
In an ancestral environment, the anecdote, the “interesting,” is information; today,

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To conclude, the best way to mitigate interventionism is to ration the supply of information, as naturalistically as possible. This is hard to accept

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People are still under the illusion that “science” means more data.

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in transportation for every calorie of nutrition; in Soviet

Note: ah that’s why us is gas hungry Edit
Graham Robb’s The Discovery of France,

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Discovery of France, a major fact that led me

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captivating book, La rebellion française, the historian Jean Nicolas shows how the culture of rioting was extremely sophisticated—historically, it counts as the true French national sport.

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are unpredictable, and their probabilities are not scientifically measurable. No

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I decided to climb up the mountain, speak slowly and in a priestly tone, and try shaming people rather than insulting them.

Note: hmmm.. contemplate Edit
predictionizing

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economics is not close to zero; it is zero

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person who makes promises about the future. “All

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such a world has unique attributes: robustness.”

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unbecoming of the wise member of the intelligentsia I was supposed to have become. Yet

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step is obvious yet rarely taken: avoidance of iatrogenics from forecasting.

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childproofing, but not forecaster-hubris-proofing.

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have extra cash in the bank (in addition to stockpiles of tradable goods such as cans of Spam and hummus and gold bars in the basement),

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extra cash in the bank (in addition to stockpiles of tradable goods such as cans of Spam and hummus and gold bars in the basement),

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harm (and maximize gain) from forecasting errors, that is, to have things that don’t fall apart, or even benefit, when we make a mistake. (ii) We do not

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lemons. (iii) As for the lemonade, it looks as if history is in the business of making it out of lemons; antifragility is

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mother of all stressors, called time. Further, after

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to the failure to understand (anti)fragility, namely, “why did we build something so fragile to these types of events?” Not

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building something fragile to them is not.

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The limit is mathematical, period, and there is no way around it on this planet.

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knowledge that can never be reached, no matter how

Note: under current assumptions of physics Edit
Winner-take-all effects are worsening:

Note: kinda makes u wanna be that winner.. Edit
“You once said that if you felt like reading a novel, you would

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They will have liquefied stress hormones dripping from their pores, they

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horizontal hero did his triathlon (sauna, Jacuzzi, and steam

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Tony was a smeller of fragility.

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And, as he discovered, the worst thing one can do to feel one knows things a bit deeper is to try to go into them a bit deeper. The sea gets deeper as you go further into it,

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Curiosity is antifragile, like an addiction, and is magnified by attempts

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Probability and Metaprobability

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world. Nero enjoyed taking long walks

Note: me too Edit
nerds, administrators, and, mostly,

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Tony is “tawk.” Nero made a bit, though

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1804, so he did not have the social insecurity of other adventurers, and

Note: unlike Nero I have this Edit
“words are for sissies.” A system based on verbal warnings will be dominated by non-risk-taking-babblers.

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There is another dimension to the need to focus on actions and avoid words: the health-eroding dependence on external recognition. People are cruel and unfair in the way they confer recognition, so it is best to stay out of that game.

Note: am beginning to understand that.. Edit
hotshots-who-depended-on-words were deprived of Tony’s serenity; they remained fragile to the emotional toll from the compliments they did not

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A man is honorable in proportion to the personal risks he takes for his opinion—in other words, the amount of downside he is exposed

Note: not sure I agree anymore Edit
ideas—wondering at times, typically Sunday nights, if there was something particularly wrong with him or if there was something wrong with the world.

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inapplicable problems, calling the process “doing science.” There

Note: I have been guilty of this in the past. Edit
Lucius Annaeus, known as Seneca the

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oeuvre is nihil perditi, “I lost nothing,” after an adverse event.

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asymmetry: you now have a lot more to lose than to gain. You are hence fragile.

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start living under continuous emotional threat.

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that arise from circumstances—induces a form of slavery.

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amount, you have an asymmetry. And it is not a good asymmetry: you are fragile. Seneca’s

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through mental exercises to write off possessions, so when losses occurred he would not feel the sting—a way to wrest one’s freedom from circumstances. It is similar

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For instance, Seneca often started his journeys with almost the same belongings

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life. I have always hated employment and the associated dependence on someone else’s arbitrary opinion, particularly when much of what’s done inside large corporations violates

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wrote my resignation letter before starting the new position, locked it up in a drawer, and felt free while I was there. Likewise,

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elimination, of emotions. It is not

Note: that’s too hard and mostly harmful.. much like galbotarix’s soldiers without pain. Edit
fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking

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fit a narrative to the circumstances (we will see with the story

Note: as so many people do so often Edit
“The bookkeeping of benefits is simple: it is all expenditure; if any one returns it, that is clear gain (my emphasis); if he does not return it, it is not lost, I gave it for the sake of giving.” Moral

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writers do better by having as a day job a sinecure devoid of writing activities.

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Mitigating fragility is not an option but a requirement.

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something in the sociopolitical discourse masks such an

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inconsequential unless you first reduce that risk of breaking. As Publilius

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attitude of playing it safe in some areas (robust to negative Black Swans) and taking a lot of small risks

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Yiddish proverb that says “Provide for the worst; the best can take care of itself.” This may

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growth in society may not come from raising the average the Asian way, but from increasing the number of people in the “tails,”

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with that very rare ability called imagination, that rarer quality called courage, and who make

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“Stay hungry, stay foolish.” He probably meant “Be crazy but retain the rationality of choosing the upper bound when you see it.” Any

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Option = asymmetry + rationality

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happy errors bring gains, unhappy errors bring losses.

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Risk taking ain’t gambling, and optionality ain’t lottery tickets.

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optionality of people stealing options from others and from the taxpayer

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(which relies almost completely on trial and error).

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An option is the weapon of antifragility.

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So I make the bold speculation that many things we think are derived by skill come largely from options, but well-used options,

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than from what we claim to be understanding.

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six thousand years between the invention of the wheel (by, we assume, the Mesopotamians)

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schlepping luggage through

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Gödel, Shmodel, Riemann’s Conjecture, quarks, shmarks, had to carry their suitcases through airport terminals, without thinking about applying their brain

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practice in which there is no penalty for simplicity.)

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We talk big but hardly have any imagination,

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antifragility. For randomness plays a role at two levels: the invention and the implementation.

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the invention and the implementation.

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implementation does not necessarily proceed from invention.

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the second harder, much harder, than the first. Just taking something to market requires struggling against a collection of naysayers, administrators, empty suits, formalists, mountains of details that invite you to drown, and one’s own discouraged mood

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details that invite you to drown, and one’s own discouraged

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option blindness).

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The Half-Invented.

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figure out what to do with a discovery,

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In spite of the hype, what we call technologies have a very high mortality rate,

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fragile technology of the wheel.

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the significant can only be revealed through practice.

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Simplicity, I realized, does not lead to laurels. Mind the

Note: I think I understand patent obsession now. Edit
non-natural does not carry long-term side effects; it is typically iatrogenics-free).

Note: wonder if the habit of 3 regularly timed meals, was natural or not. something tells me it was a byproduct of agriculture.. Edit
representative hunter of positive Black Swans,

Note: that’s what I wanna be’:-) Edit
Joseph Schumpeter.

Note: ha that guy vgr named his demon after.. Edit
missed the notion of antifragility as asymmetry (optionality) effects,

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It is a way of doing things that we cannot really express in clear and direct language—it is sometimes called apophatic—but

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degrading the uncodifiable, more complex, intuitive, or experience-based type.

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proof against the statement

Note: you mean scientific, academic proof. .. :-) Edit
application of scientific knowledge to practical projects—leading

Note: reminds me of Sheldon cooper Edit
Ornithology is now indispensable

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“If the student is smart, the teacher takes the credit.”

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history belongs to those who can write about it

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causal illusions called epiphenomena

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that A causes B, or that B causes A, depending

Note: just reminds me of Judea pearl’s causality Edit
People are scared of the alternative.

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something (a) new and (b) curable. A Procrustean bed approach; we cannot change humans as easily as we can build greed-proof systems,

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Clive Granger

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“Granger cause” by looking

Note: look it up…:-) Edit
place to think about the arrow of knowledge: Abu Dhabi, a city that sprang out of the desert, as if watered by oil. It makes me queasy

Note: ud Edit
call “linear,” where errors are from Mediocristan, not from Extremistan.)

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journalistic-style pressure of modern publish-and-perish academia to produce cosmetic knowledge, much like the counterfeit

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Governments Should Spend on Nonteleological Tinkering, Not Research

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collaborate, engage in business, let ideas, pardon the expression, copulate.

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William Starbuck, has published a few papers debunking the effectiveness of planning—it

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evidence. Matthew Stewart, who, trained as a philosopher, found himself in a management consultant job, gives a pretty revolting, if funny, inside story in The Management Myth

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(i) Look for optionality; in fact, rank things according to optionality, (ii) preferably with open-ended, not closed-ended, payoffs; (iii) Do not invest in business plans but in people, so look for someone capable of changing six or seven times over his career, or more (an idea

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(iv) Make sure you are barbelled, whatever that means in your business.

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history has been written by those who want you to believe that reasoning has a monopoly or near monopoly on the production of knowledge.

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They keep doing it: the statement all that is nonrigorous is nonacademic (assuming one is a sucker and

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believes it) does not imply that all that is nonacademic is nonrigorous

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need randomness, mess, adventures, uncertainty, self-discovery, near-traumatic

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Avoidance of boredom is the only worthy mode of action. Life otherwise is not worth living.)

Note: my sentiments exactly :-) Edit
So I went to the bookstore and ordered (there was no Web at the time) almost every book with “probability”

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nonnerdy applied mathematics: find

Note: one of the reasons I tell myself for having moved away from mathematics Edit
“much of what other people know isn’t worth knowing.”

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made in life is to mistake the unintelligible for the unintelligent—something

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would have claimed one doesn’t argue with someone who is ready to pay you to argue with him.

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Fat Tony’s power in life is that he never lets the other person frame the question.

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(only suckers wait for answers; questions are not made for answers):

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In other words, if you cannot get a map from a territory, build a territory out of the map.

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they could not allow him to define what something was, at least they allowed him to be certain about what a thing was not.

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“What is not intelligible to me is not necessarily unintelligent”

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logic excludes—by definition—nuances, and since truth resides exclusively in the nuances, it is “a useless instrument for finding Truth in the moral and political sciences.”

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be focusing on the right things but we are not good enough to figure it out intellectually.

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Death and martyrdom make good marketing, particularly when one faces destiny while unwavering in his opinions.

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Gray showed repeatedly how what we call scientific progress can be just a mirage. When

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For Tony, the distinction in life isn’t True or False, but rather sucker or nonsucker.

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other. You decide principally based on fragility, not probability. Or to rephrase, You decide principally based on fragility, not so much on True/False.

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Scientists have something called “confidence level”; a result obtained with a 95 percent confidence level means that there is no more than a 5 percent probability of the result being wrong. The idea of course is inapplicable as it ignores the size of the effects, which of course, makes things

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Black Swan event and how it affects you—its impact on your finances, emotions, the destruction it will cause—are not the same “ting.”

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“modify your exposure” and learn to

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this section, note that doing is wiser than you are prone to believe—and more rational.

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their accounts invalidates their views about the role of teleological science.

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Dynamic Hedging, was

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academics—it would be like prostitutes listening to technical commentary by nuns. What

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vulnerability to the volatility of the things that affect it was a huge personal embarrassment for me,

Note: this is why I tend to believe him..confession personal mistakes… Edit
thirty feet seems to be the cutoff point for death from free fall.

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“second-order” effect, it means convexity is causing the failure of approximation

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intuitive way to look at convexity effects: consider the scaling property. If you double the exposure to something, do you more than double the harm

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whether variability in distribution—the second-order effect—mattered as much as long-term composition.

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Health benefits are convex to speed (up to a point, of course).

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save, then shell out the $4,000. That’s a squeeze.

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beautiful.” It is completely wrong to use the calculus of benefits without including the probability of failure.* How to Exit

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smooth functioning at regular times is different from the rough functioning at times of stress.

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supplies. Just consider that the price of wheat more than tripled in the years 2004–2007 in response to a small increase in net demand, around 1 percent.* Bottlenecks are the mothers of all squeezes.

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This also explains the irreversibility of time, in a way, if you consider the passage of time as an increase in disorder.

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Further, there were no business schools at the time to teach something called “project management” and increase overconfidence.

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problem of cost overruns and delays is much more acute in the presence of information technologies (IT),

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Complexity plus asymmetry (plus such types as George W. Bush), once again, lead to explosive errors.

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They exhibit a remarkable lack of concentration in their predatorial behavior, with a strategy of prey switching. They were not as sticky and rigid as us in their habits. Whenever they got low on a resource, they switched to another one, as if to preserve the ecosystem. So they understood convexity effects—or, rather, their habits did.

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the world is troubled with additional unpredictability and fragility.

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The key is that the nonlinear is vastly more affected by extreme events—and nobody was interested in extreme events since they had a mental block against them.

Note: denial Edit
the wonderful principle that one should use people’s stupidity to have fun,

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trivial). The only problem is that mathematics is addictive.

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Do not cross a river if it is on average four feet deep. You have just been informed

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the second piece of information, the variability, turned out to be more important than the first. The notion of average is of no significance when one is

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good simplification the notion of average can be, it can also be

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model is by its very nature a simplification. You just don’t want the simplification

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(a) The severity of the problem of conflation (mistaking the price of oil for geopolitics, or mistaking a profitable bet for good forecasting—not convexity of payoff and optionality). (b) Why anything with optionality has a long-term advantage—and how to measure it. (c) An additional subtle property called Jensen’s inequality.

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behavior of the function is such that it is, as we said, “not the same thing.” We can see here that the function of

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The more volatile the something—the more uncertainty—the more the function divorces itself from the something. Let us

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Someone with a linear payoff needs to be right more than 50 percent of the time. Someone with a convex payoff, much less. The hidden benefit of

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The more uncertainty, the more role for optionality to kick in, and the more you will outperform. This property is very central to life.

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culturally,

Note: linguistically?? Edit
Almost anything around us of significance is hard to grasp linguistically—and

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not—the indirect rather than the direct expression.

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Proclus was known to repeat the metaphor that statues are carved by subtraction. I have

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that the interventionista focuses on positive action—doing

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acts of commission are respected and glorified by our primitive minds and lead to, say, naive government interventions that end in disaster, followed by generalized complaints about naive government interventions,

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in a flash as just obvious, then evaporate later as you forget them. Just look at the “how to” books with, in their

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truly believe in Platonic ideas when they come in reverse, like negative universals. So the central tenet

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(not capitalized),

Note: why? Edit
hallucinating from spending too much time on the Web?

Note: is that a thing? Edit
the use of complicated analyses and highly fragile, error-prone, cause-ferreting nerdiness. Some people are aware

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Convincing—and confident—disciplines, say, physics, tend to use little statistical backup, while political science and economics, which have never produced anything of note, are full of elaborate statistics and statistical “evidence” (and

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For instance, if you have more than one reason to do something (choose a doctor or veterinarian, hire a gardener or an employee, marry a person, go on a trip), just don’t do

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Bergson’s razor: “A philosopher should be known for one single idea, not more”

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prophet, with the understanding that it is not a good career choice unless you have a thick skin, a good circle of friends, little access

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proverbs, and, if possible, the ability to derive personal benefits from

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innovation, improvements, killer technologies,

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most fragile is the predictive, what is built on the basis of predictability—in other words, those who underestimate Black Swans will eventually exit the population.

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We also represent society according to our utopia of the moment, largely

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Technothinkers tend to have an “engineering mind”—to put it less politely, they have autistic tendencies.

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They love precision at the expense of applicability. And they typically share an absence of literary culture.

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With a little bit of luck a computer virus will wipe out all records and free people from their past mistakes.

Note: that’s wishful thinking at best :-) Edit
is quite exhilarating to wear these shoes when walking in nature as one wakes up to a new dimension while feeling the three dimensions of the terrain.

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an Italian-looking moccasin made in Brazil that allows me to both run on stones and go to dinner in restaurants.

Note: I want that…. Edit
One can now jot down handwritten, or rather fingerwritten, notes—it is much more soothing to write longhand, instead of having to go through the agency of a keyboard. My dream would be

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Popper called the error of historicism. Effectively my answer would

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between e-readers and physical books, like smell, texture, dimension (books are in three dimensions), color, ability to change pages, physicality of

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Urban planning, incidentally, demonstrates the central property of the so-called top-down effect: top-down is usually irreversible, so mistakes tend to stick, whereas bottom-up is gradual and incremental, with creation and destruction along the way, though presumably with a positive slope.

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Wealth of details, ironically, leads to inner peace.

Note: can’t agree more with this … Edit
problems become more abstract as they scale up, and the abstract is not something human nature can manage properly. The same principle needs to apply

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buildings, when erected, do not account for the optionality of future alterations.

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papers. Books that are one year old are usually not worth reading (a very low probability of having the qualities for “surviving”), no

Note: including this one ??? :-) Edit
attention-seeking orientation,

Note: the reason I gave up on a phd Edit
validate the contribution of one Jules Regnault, who

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career professionals are to knowledge what prostitutes are to love.

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original role of the prophet: to warn, not necessarily to predict,

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Tiresias

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The problem with lack of recursion in learning—lack of second-order thinking—is as follows. If those delivering

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A natural, biological, explainable or nonexplainable match, confirmed by long series of recurrent frequentation—in place of rationalism, just consider the history of it.

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great skeptic philosopher Sextus Empiricus was himself a doctor member of the skeptical empirical school. So were Menodotus of Nicomedia and the experience-based predecessor of evidence-based medicine—on whom a bit more in a few pages. The works of these thinkers, or whatever remains extant are quite refreshing for those of us who distrust those who talk without doing.

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Thalesian, not Aristotelian (that is, decision making based on payoffs, not knowledge). For in

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a complex domain, only time—a long time—is evidence.

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an insult to Mother Nature to override her programmed reactions unless we had a good reason to do so, backed by proper empirical testing to show that we humans can do better; the burden of evidence falls on us humans. So

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my nose or if it resulted from a naive version of an interventionism. His response was: “You have a nose the size of Cleveland and you are now interested in … numbers?”

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sucker-rationalism

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better, and denigration of the unobserved.

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tradition to catalog the tension between “clinical” and actuarial (that is, statistical) knowledge, and

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I get the answer that they have no clue when they have to utter defensively “I am a doctor” or “are you a doctor?” But worst, I sometimes

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The first principle of iatrogenics is as follows: we do not need evidence of harm to claim that a drug or an unnatural via

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conditional survival probabilities,

Note: conditional on symptoms? Edit
extrapolating cancer risk from high doses to low doses of ionizing radiation.”

Note: so I must guess overestimation in this case? Edit
am not against the function and mission of pharma, rather, its business practice: they should focus for their own benefit on extreme diseases, not on reclassifications or pressuring

Note: ha ends vs means argument Edit
you are antifragile (i.e., convex) to a given substance, then you are better off having it randomly distributed, rather than provided steadily.

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occasional spike in pressure helps to open up collapsed alveoli.

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of nonlinear effects such as convexity biases while “doing empirical work” is like having to catalog every apple falling from a tree and call the operation “empiricism” instead of just using Newton’s equation.

Note: that way there’s more empirical experiments to run Edit
meant to “improve” things—with continuous first-order learning,

Note: the degree of order being significant in terms of erroneous hypothesis Edit
totally nonexistent. We will not be able to get an evidence-based picture of the hidden harm in the short term (we need years for that—remember smoking) and, further, the arguments currently made in favor of the routine administration of these drugs often lie in a few statistical illusions or even manipulation (the experiments used by drug companies seem to play on nonlinearities and bundle the very ill and the less ill, in addition to assuming that the metric “cholesterol” equates 100

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they certainly do lower cholesterol, but as a human your objective function

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Metric-lowering drugs are particularly

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because should the patient have a heart attack, he would be sued for negligence; but the error in the opposite direction is not penalized at all, as side effects do not appear at all as being caused

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medical doctor and surgeon were kept professionally and socially separate, one was an ars, the other scientia,

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antibiotic, you help, to some degree, the mutation of germs into antibiotic-resistant strains.

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Iron supplementation.

Note: first hand experience Edit
Insulin injections for Type II diabetics,

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Cow milk for people of Mediterranean and Asian descent.

Note: hmm??? Edit
ingestion of food combined with one’s activity brings about hormonal cascades

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Complex systems have feedback loops, so what you “burn” depends on what you consume, and how

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And to the probabilist, like myself and my peers, this is an insult to human prudence, the beginning of the mother of all exposures to Black Swans. Let me repeat

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what Mother Nature does is rigorous until proven otherwise; what humans and science do is flawed until proven otherwise.

Note: disagree with the agency attribution but agree with it otherwise Edit
So overriding her requires some very convincing justification on our part, rather than the reverse,

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modus operandi in every venture is to remain as robust as possible to changes in theories (let

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The doctor and medical essayist James Le Fanu showed how our understanding of the biological processes was coupled with a decline of pharmaceutical discoveries, as if rationalistic theories were blinding and

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skeptical empiricists (who refused theories and were skeptical of ideas making claims about the unseen), and methodists (who taught each other some simple medical heuristics stripped of theories and found an even more practical way to be empiricists).

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did not know” while facing situations not exactly seen in the past, that is, in nearly identical conditions. The methodists did not have the same strictures against analogy, but were still careful.

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pharmakon is ambiguous, as it can mean both “poison” and “cure” and has been used as a pun to warn against iatrogenics

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The very same idea was rediscovered by psychologists some twenty-four centuries later, and applied to stockbrokers, doctors, and managers of companies. According to an ancient

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(Nul médecin ne prent plaisir à la santé de ses amis mesmes, dit l’ancien Comique Grec, ny soldat à la paix de sa ville: ainsi du reste.)

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This random variability is often mistaken for information, hence leading to intervention.

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debunker of statistical misinterpretation David Freedman showed (very convincingly) with a coauthor that the link everyone is obsessing about between salt and blood pressure has no statistical basis. It may exist for some hypertensive people, but it is more likely the exception than the rule.

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decision maker hybrid and will never separate the philosopher-probabilist from the decision maker, so I am

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be sophisticated you need to accept that you are not so.

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Life expectancy has increased (conditional on no nuclear war)

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of course, some medical practitioners operating in severe life-threatening situations. If

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birth used to be thirty until the last century, that people lived just thirty years. The distribution was massively skewed, with the bulk of the deaths coming from birth and childhood mortality.

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error of logic called affirming the consequent

Note: I really should try studying formal logic sometime Edit
(another reason to have a society immune from the stupidity of lawmakers by decentralization of important decisions). One

Note: wonder if there should be shorter terms?? Edit
Spyros Makridakis, a statistician and decision scientist who we introduced

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increase expenditures on these and reduce

Note: expenditures by government policy Edit
“The good is mostly in the absence of bad”; Nimium boni est, cui nihil est mali.

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as those who lecture on happiness look unhappy, those who lecture on unhappiness would look happy);

Note: I can vouch for that from past selves :-) Edit
citrus our ancestors ingested was not sweet, they never ingested carbohydrates without large, very large quantities of fiber. Eating an orange or an apple is not biologically equivalent to drinking orange or apple juice.)

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“social” networks are antisocial, and the “knowledge”-based economy is typically ignorant.

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Romans had a strange relation to wealth: anything that “softens” or “mollifies” was seen negatively.

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Religion has invisible purposes beyond what the literal-minded scientistic-scientifiers identify—one of which is to protect us from scientism, that

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religion’s benefits in limiting the intervention bias and its iatrogenics: in a large set of circumstances (marginal disease), anything that takes you away from the doctor and allows you to do nothing (hence gives nature a chance to do its work) will be beneficial. So

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the role of religion is to tame the iatrogenics of abundance—fasting makes you lose your sense of entitlement.

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getting three times the daily dose of protein in one day and nothing the next two is certainly not biologically equivalent to “steady”

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composition—at least over a certain range, or number of days.

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Orthodox Lent, a forty-day period in which almost no animal product can be consumed, no sweets, and, for some sticklers, no olive oil. As

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Giving people food before they expend energy would certainly confuse their signaling process.

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But for the ancients, the worst possible outcome was not death, but a dishonorable death, or even just a regular one. For a classical hero, dying in a retirement home with a rude nurse and a network of tubes coming into and out of your nose would not be the attractive telos for a life. And, of course,

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present and the future tribes exploited the fragility of individuals to strengthen themselves.

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through the centuries. I was just reading in John Gray’s wonderful The Immortalization Commission about attempts to use science, in

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the French say, place aux autres—make room

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Iatrogenics has both delayed and invisible consequences. It is hard to see causal links, to fully understand what’s going on.

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look at what we are getting ourselves into when someone gets the upside, and a different person gets the downside. The worst problem of modernity lies in the malignant transfer of fragility and antifragility from one party to the

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other one (unwittingly) getting the harm, with such transfer facilitated by the growing wedge between the ethical and the legal.

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pseudocourage that comes from risk blindness, in

Note: commonly mistaken for heroism Edit
Socratic Plato, which is the very definition of the modern man: the courage to stand up for an idea, and enjoy death in a state of thrill, simply because the privilege of dying for truth, or standing up for one’s values, had become the highest

Note: unfortunately also creating sophists that talk and recommend a strong action Edit
They will be called heroes—rather than lucky. Further, if success is random, a conscious act of heroism is nonrandom.

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thanks to casuistry call themselves ethical.

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messianic utopians have caused quite a bit of harm. Nor is a grandiose death a necessity:

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since erudition on its own does not make a man.

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dignity is worth nothing unless you earn it, unless you are willing to pay a price for it.

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providing up-front disincentive in case of harm to others during the fulfillment of one’s profession.

Note: unfortunately am in the software creation profession one that has very little standards Edit
First, never get on a plane if the pilot is not on board. Second, make sure there is also a copilot. The first heuristic addresses the asymmetry in rewards and punishment, or transfer of fragility between individuals.

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opinion maker needs to have “skin in the game”

Note: managers and executives in software industry Edit
forecasts induce risk taking; they are more toxic to us than any other form of human pollution).

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misfortune of others—no matter how hideous these are and can be—is not the most graceful approach to life. But Tony had something at risk, and would have been personally harmed by an adverse outcome. Fat Tony had no agency problem. This makes it permissible. For there is an even worse problem associated with the opposite situation: people who just talk, prognosticate, theorize. In fact, speculative risk taking is not just permissible; it is mandatory. No opinion without risk; and, of course, no risk without hope for return. If Fat Tony had an opinion, he felt he needed, for ethical reasons, to have a corresponding exposure. As they say in Bensonhurst, you got to do so if you have an opinion. Otherwise,

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The “knowledge world” causes separation of knowing and doing (within the same person) and leads to the fragility of society. How? In the old days, privilege came with obligations—except for the small class of intellectuals

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They were in it; they believed in it. Status implied you took physical risks. Note that in traditional societies even those who fail—but have taken risks—have a higher status than those who are not exposed.

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This knowledge shknowledge business necessarily means shifting to talk. Talk by academics, consultants, and journalists, when it comes to predictions, can be just talk, devoid of

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As in anything with words, it is not the victory of the most correct, but that of the most charming—or the one who can produce the most academic-sounding material.

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harmful. I just get disturbed when I see wrong

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It is guilt, for Baal’s sake, and guilt is what I do not have to put up with.

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globalization brings fragilities, causes more extreme events as a side effect, and requires a great deal of redundancies to operate properly.

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as humans crave self-consistency, they will retain those elements of what they thought in the past that cohere with their perception of the present. So opinion makers

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The past is fluid, marred with selection biases and constantly revised memories.

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The asymmetry (antifragility of postdictors): postdictors can cherry-pick and produce instances in which their opinions played out and discard mispredictions into the bowels of history. It is like a free option—to

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Actions are symmetric, do not allow cherry-picking, remove the free

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cannot sit and moan about the world. You need to come out on top. So Tony was right to insist that Nero take a ritual look at the physical embodiment of the spoils, like a bank account statement—as we said, it had nothing to

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the probability of a default was found to be “so small that it is difficult to detect.”

Note: difficult for your model’s assumptions right? Edit
An academic is not designed to remember his opinions because he doesn’t have anything at risk from them.

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a form of cherry-picking, the nastiest variety because the perpetrator is not aware of what he is doing.

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corresponds to a combination of remarkable analytical skills, blindness to fragility, selective memory, and absence of skin in the game. Stiglitz Syndrome = fragilista (with good intentions) + ex

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there is a need only for consistency within a single paper,

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ask anyone for their opinion, forecast, or recommendation. Just ask them what they have—or don’t have—in their portfolio. We now know that many

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whatever he wants, but one’s portfolio needs to line up with it.

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Gerd Gigerenzer has a simple heuristic. Never ask the doctor what you should do. Ask him what he would do if he were in your place. You would be surprised at the difference.

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that Fat Tony was in favor of just “making a buck” as opposed to being “proven right.”

Note: bloody learn this habit enough to make it 2nd nature anand . Edit
fragile payoffs have little (sometimes no) upside, and antifragile payoffs have little downside.

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Suckers try to win arguments, nonsuckers try to win. To put it again in other words: it is rather a good thing to lose arguments.

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live in a system of rewards based on narratives, “tawk,” and the opinion of others, with job evaluation and peer reviews—in other words, what we call marketing.

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Evolution dislikes the confirmation fallacy, endemic in society.

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He missed the point that it is not ideas that survive, but people who have the right ones, or societies that have the correct heuristics, or the ones, right or wrong, that lead them to do the good thing. He missed the Thalesian effect, the fact that a wrong idea that is harmless can survive. Those who have wrong heuristics—but with a small harm in the event of error—will survive. Behavior called “irrational” can be good if it is

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The Romans removed the soldiers’ incentive to be a coward and hurt others thanks to a process called decimation. If a legion loses a battle and there is suspicion of cowardice, 10 percent of the soldiers and commanders are put to death, usually by random lottery.

Note: interesting firing at corporations can work?? Edit
ordinary first order judgments from the effects of his philosophizing.” Sorry,

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believe that forcing researchers to eat their own cooking whenever possible solves a serious problem in science.

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Never listen to a leftist who does not give away his fortune or does not live the exact lifestyle he wants others to follow. What

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else. A prophet is not someone who first had an idea; he is the one to first believe in it—and take it to its

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is a matter of commitment, or what philosophers call doxastic commitment, a type of belief-pledge that to Fat Tony and Nero needed to be translated into deeds (the reverse-Stiglitz). Doxa in Greek used to mean “belief,” but distinguished from “knowledge” (episteme); to see how it involves a commitment of sorts beyond just words, consider that in church Greek it took the meaning of glorification

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running a company that is not his own and an owner-operated business in which the manager does not need to report numbers to anyone but himself, and for which he has a downside.

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losses. But this does not solve the problem: the managers still have a net upside, and no net downside.

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me make the point clearer: the version of “capitalism” or whatever economic system you need to have is with the minimum number of people in the left column of the Triad. Nobody realizes that the central problem of the Soviet system was that it put everyone in charge of economic life in that nasty fragilizing left column.

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all these firms have to produce “growth in revenues” to satisfy the metric of some slow thinking or, at best, semi-slow thinking MBA analyst sitting in New York. Of

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with the exception of, say, drug dealers, small companies and artisans tend to sell us healthy products, ones that seem naturally and spontaneously needed;

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do—carpenters with personal pride feel fake when treating the inside of cabinets differently from the outside. Again,

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called cheese—and do their homework by studying how to fool your taste buds. Actually, it is more than just an incentive: they are structurally designed and extremely expert at delivering the cheapest possible product that meets their specifications. The same with, say, business books: publishers and authors want to grab your attention and put in your hands the most perishable journalistic item available that still can be called a book. This is optimization at work, in maximizing (image and packaging) or minimizing (costs and efforts).

Note: obsolete by design Edit
the saying goes, it is hardest to be a great man to one’s chambermaid.

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And marketing beyond conveying information is insecurity.

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serious violation: companies trying to misrepresent the product they sell by playing with our cognitive biases, our unconscious associations, and that’s sneaky.

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problem of units that are different from individuals.

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A corporation does not have generosity. Only self-serving actions are acceptable. Just imagine what would happen to a corporation that decided to unilaterally cancel its receivables—just to be nice. Yet

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societies function thanks to random acts of generosity between people, even sometimes strangers.

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They will not be harmed by subsequent failures; they will keep their bonuses, as there is currently no such thing as negative manager compensation.

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servant’s, go with the mobster. Any time. Institutions do not have a sense of honor, individuals do.

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After the war, Lawrence went back to live in the U.K., supposedly in a state of frustration, but, of course, not much more. But he left us with a good lesson: never trust the words of a man who is not free.

Note: and do your best to get free Edit
Only a sense of honor can lead to commerce. Any commerce.

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“But, Neeroh Toolip, there are still slaves around,” Fat Tony blurted out. “They often distinguish themselves by wearing this intricate device called a necktie.”

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Being self-owned is a state of mind.”

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Greed is antifragile—though not its victims. Back to

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class of persons is like Tantalus, who was subjected to an eternal punishment: he stood in a pool of water underneath a fruit tree and whenever he tried to grab the fruit it moved away and whenever he tried to drink, the water receded. And such

Note: ha the word tantalizing Edit
that one can rapidly, after a phase of indoctrination, become enslaved to a profession, to the point of having one’s opinions on any subject become self-serving, hence unreliable for the collective. This is the bone the Greeks had to pick with professionals. One of my

Note: have I already crossed that point Edit
isn’t that making a living in a profession is inherently bad; rather, it’s that such a person becomes automatically suspect when dealing with public affairs, matters that involve others. The definition of the free man,

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he is free who owns his own opinion.

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never meant not working; it just meant not deriving your personal

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the f*** you money that allowed Thales of Miletus to gauge his own sincerity. For the Spartans, it was all about courage. For Fat Tony, humanity started at the level of “self-ownership.”

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the Greeks, only he who is free with his time is free with his opinion, for our horizontal friend and advisor, only he who has courage is free with his opinion. Sissies are born, not made. They stay sissies no matter how much independence you give them, no matter how rich they get.

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blurted out: “Isn’t this unethical?” I was then told in response “It is perfectly legal,”

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regulation, the more bureaucratic the network, the more a regulator who knows the loops and glitches would benefit from it later, as his regulator edge would be a convex function of his differential knowledge. This is a franchise, an asymmetry one has at the expense of others. (Note

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The incentive of a regulator is to have complex regulation. Again, the insiders are the enemies of the less-is-more rule.

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people found it natural that a former official would try to “make money” thanks to his former position—at our expense. Don’t people like to

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You can always find an argument or an ethical reason to defend an opinion ex post. This is a dicey point, but,

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long time “casuistry,” the art of arguing the nuances of decisions, was just that, fitting narratives.

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“absence of evidence” mixed with “evidence of absence” and

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turning his point semantically into something equivalent in decision making to the statement that that we had evidence that fossil fuels did not harm. He

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The researcher gets the upside, truth gets the downside. The researcher’s free option is in his ability to pick whatever statistics can confirm his belief—or

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Falsity grows faster than information; it is nonlinear (convex) with respect to data.

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unrelated to each other, then it would be near impossible not to find in it a high correlation of sorts, say 30 percent, but that is entirely spurious.

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(one of which is known as the Bonferoni adjustment),

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the problem is that the needle comes in a haystack.

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can also formulate a hypothesis after the results of the experiment—thus fitting the hypothesis to the experiment. The bias is smaller, though, than

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Increasingly, data can only truly deliver via negativa–style knowledge—it can be effectively used to debunk, not confirm.

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are crippled with a distrust of empirical results, except for those that are negative. To

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Science must not be a competition; it must not have rankings—we can see how such a system will end up blowing up. Knowledge must not have an agency problem.

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But the good news is that I am convinced that a single person with courage can bring down a collective composed of wimps.

Note: am not convinced Edit
When I hear about classes in ethics, I get even more tense. All I want is to remove the optionality, reduce the antifragility of some at the expense of others. It is simple via negativa. The rest will take care of itself.

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Everything gains or loses from volatility. Fragility is what loses from volatility and uncertainty

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Spartan hoplites contra bloggers, adventurers contra copy editors, Phoenician traders contra Latin grammarians, and pirates contra tango instructors.

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We saw the link between convexity and liking volatility. So everything likes or hates volatility up to a point. Everything.

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convexity or acceleration and higher orders, since convexity is the response by a thing that likes disorder.

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x, but we can play with the exposure to x, barbell things to defang them; we can control a function of x, f(x), even if x remains vastly beyond our understanding. We can keep changing f(x) until we are comfortable with it by a mechanism called convex

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Distributed randomness (as opposed to the concentrated type) is a necessity, not an option: everything big is short volatility. So is everything fast. Big and fast are abominations. Modern times don’t like volatility.

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it, a world whose charm comes from our inability to truly understand it.

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dangerous. It was the best compliment Nero ever got from Tony: trusting that Nero would be able to read his mind. Which he did.

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Education is teleological and hates disorder. It tends to cater to fragilistas.

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