Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pop Hubbert's Pimple and Liberate Your Inner Alpha!!

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly ImprobableThe Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great book! The guy makes important points. But what a jerk. He thinks he has the right to call everyone else a jerk or a stuffed shirt or an empty suit, but who the hell does he think he is? He's a gamer and a huckster and just plain lucky but he wants you to believe he has that kind of outlier genius which the rest of us are not even supposed to believe in.

He says the world just is the way it is now and get used to it. We live in the state of Extremistan, where the BIG EVENTS which will shape our destiny are fundamentally unpredictable. This is better, he implies, than to live in the state of Mediocristan, led by the high preisthood of the fraudulent Academy which is just too stupid to stop imposing Platonic forms and retrospective narratives on the stuff of raw reality.

Well buddy, where the hell would we be if we hadn't started with those forms? Mathematical thinking has done a pretty good job of giving us a handle on the raw reality of nature. And show me a single aspect of reality which can be communicated without some narrative. Show me a truth which isn't metaphor, and I'll show you a fundamentalist dyslexic nutjob.

Lots of normal people think that that civilizing influence has been really really good. Lots of us would rather move away from a wolfish pack where only the alpha dog gets to mate or fly high or sell books, and we're not all that terrorized that we might be more like ant-clones, socially organized around survival of the hive.

You won't let someone pin you with your own personal narrative, growing up as you did in "Lebanon," that fictional state which only melted down after the Platonic Ideal of the Nation State got imposed on it. But then you want to claim that the state of Extremistan is the true state of nature, and nothing we can do about it but to hang loose, like a huckster, ready to pounce on any opportunity which comes our way.

Admit it, Taleb, you stole our money when you were a quant, and you deserve our anger for the supposed Black Swan of our recent meltdown. Funny you don't mention that one in your book, so backward looking are you in imposing your narrative on history that you miss what's staring you down. Were you afraid you'd get pinned with it?

Well, I stole your book, so there! I would have borrowed it, but the brave new world of Kindle doesn't allow for that and I hardly wanted to pay for another book which would expand a thought which could be stated in a single page. There are enough civilized people out there who see right through the administrative fiction of intellectual property, thank the gods.

There are enough people who understand that there is no choice but to impose narratives on our history. That the only choice is which not whether. There are enough people who understand that our collective choice is to smooth the bumps or die collectively in one last great Black Swan event.

Sorry you won't join the party. Jerk!

OK, sorry sorry. Got carried away there. Really, read this book. It's great. Just don't get too carried away with it or you'll start believing that there is an actual reality out there that you have nothing to do with. The metaphor of a-causal fractals is so much more real. Trust me on that.

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