Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Black Swan

I have read less than half of this, and am now giving it to my eldest for his birthday. I hope to get it back. This quote jumped out at me.
One spring day a few years ago, I was surprised to receive an invitation from a think tank sponsored by the United States Defense Department to a brainstorming session on risk…The symposium was a closed-doors, synod-style assembly who would never have mixed otherwise. My first surprise was to discover that the military people there thought, behaved, and acted like philosopher – far more so than the philosophers we will see splitting hairs in their weekly colloquium in Part Three. They thought out of the box, like traders, except much better and without fear of introspection. An assistant secretary of defense was with us, but had I not known his profession I would have thought he was a practitioner of skeptical empiricism…I came out of the meeting realizing that only military people deal with randomness with genuine, introspective intellectual honesty – unlike academics and corporate executives using other people’s money. This does not show in war movies… When I expressed my amazement to Laurence, another finance person who was sitting next to me, he told me that the military collected more genuine intellects and risk thinkers than most if not all other professions. Defense people wanted to understand the epistemology of risk. Nassim Nicholas Taleb The Black Swan.


For more on the remarkable Taleb, who wrote Fooled By Randomness, his wikipedia entry is here.

3 comments:

who, me? said...

Reading Taleb's Fooled by Randomness left me reeling on many levels. Like pulling away a big denial crutch. In a good way. Rather like first reading Winnicott, or David Berlinski's The Advent of the Algorithm.

Still some great writing and thinking happening out there in the MSM-colonized wasteland!

GM Roper said...

My brother borrowed my "new" copy (actually, bought used from a local 2nd hand book store) before I could read it and hasn't returned it yet. But, not to worry, I have a lein on his firstborn till he gets it back to me. What I did skim of it showed that it was pretty damn powerful. One of the few books that I've found equally entertaining and educational and mind expanding and.... Was Isaac Asimov's The Left Hand Of The Electron which though written perhaps 30 years ago, is still an excellent read.

jlbussey said...

I'm about half-way through it too. Great read. I may have to get Fooled by Randomness too.