Monthly Archives: June 2015

Nassim just posted this one-page refutation to Stephen Pinker’s claim that violence has dropped since 1945. On his facebook page he says that “journalist-passing-for-scientist” Pinker cites “political science bloggers innocent of fat tails, who seem clueless about the difference between data and information. How to separate anecdote from evidence, sampling error from truth, journalism from science? Well there is something called a “test statistic.”
This also illustrates how to do rigorous statistics in the absence of a textbook recipe for a fat-tailed process, by means of Monte Carlo analyses. I will be teaching a course called “Extreme Risk Analytics” at NYU-Engineering this fall and will have to produce an 80 page lecture notes booklet, which I will write progressively from interaction with the class. SILENT RISK is too advanced, so I need a more introductory book.”

In a book review called Finally: A Business Memoir That Owes More To Nassim Taleb Than To Jack Welch, David Shaywitz describes similarities he sees between Nassim’s thinking and the thinking of Pixar President Ed Catmull, as revealed in his memoir Creativity Inc. Shaywitz writes:

… in a fashion that seems equally indebted to Montaigne’s On Experience and Taleb’s The Black Swan, Catmull contemplates the challenges of managing in a world where, inevitably, there will be so much that’s hidden, and that you can never see.

This is precisely the question that vexed Taleb as well; as I phrased it in my review, “How do you function in a world where accurate prediction is rarely possible, where history isn’t a reliable guide to the future and where the most important events cannot be anticipated?”

Much like Taleb, Catmull isn’t looking for certitude, and would profoundly (and appropriately) distrust it if he saw it.  But the alternative is finding a way to function and achieve balance – a very dynamic and ever-changing balance – in a world that’s constantly shifting.

For Catmull, encouraging employees to surface and solve problems, and to candidly share critique is both a daily challenge and an existential need, without which creative businesses are destined to fail.

Read the entire book review at Forbes.