We use fragility theory to show the effect of size and response to uncertainty, how distributed decision-making creates more apparent volatility, but ensures long term survival of a system. Simply, economies of scale are more than offset by stochastic diseconomies from shocks and there is such a thing as a “sweet spot” in optimal size. We show how city-states fare better than large states, how mice and small species are more robust than elephants, and how the canton mechanism can potentially solve Near Eastern problems.

This talk was part of “Cities and Development: Urban Determinants of Success” — the NYU Development Research Institute’s 2014 Conference, hosted jointly with the Marron Institute of Urban Management. The conference touched on the role of cities in the development process.

Nassim Taleb on GMOs


On GMOs: “A pound of algebra is worth a ton of verbal commentary”. I managed to fit the Precautionary Principle into a few lines. The GMO paid propagandists are pounding tons of verbalistic statements (even an incompetent smear campaign), but this simple summary should cancel about everything they are trying to say. In a single column. They need to refute my representation or show that f(breeding) has the same maximum as f(GMOs).

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