Something is Broken in the UK Intellectual Sphere

What was meant to be a “typical” of Roman Britain by the BBC: flowing quotas of political correctness backward in time.

The BBC did some kind of educational cartoon on Roman Britain and represented “diversity” in terms of someone looking African in the show as representative of “diversity” at the time. The BBC was effectively applying quotas retroactively (I mean, really retroactively). Any dissent from the statistical errors made by the politically correct police is treated as apostasy. Effectively, scholarship is dead in the U.K.

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When did Lebanese Christians Start Speaking French?

The current narrative (and, I am not joking, given by “experts” in international relations, etc.) is that the Lebanese Christians, like inhabitants of the Maghreb, picked up French from something called “French colonialism”. But the French only spent two decades in Lebanon, replacing the Ottomans after the great war, a period during which it was a “mandate”, something like a concession. Unlike the Maghreb, there was no settlers, no nothing. And not one noticed that the French language was heavily ingrained in the Christian bourgeoisie during the Ottoman Empire.

Take the Titanic. Among the passengers sunk in 1912 (hence before “colonialism”) are the following Lebanese names: Eugénie Baqlini, Catherine Dawud, Helene Barbara, Charles Tannous, Marie-Sophie Abrahim. A decade before the French army arrived. And my own family has among those, born before 1920, names such as Marcel, Edouard, Angele, Laure, Evelyne, Mathilde, Victoire (later adapted to Victoria), Philomene, etc. My mother was named after her aunt, Minerve (born 1905). Many archaic French names.

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a book called ‘The Black Swan’ which was about randomness and the inevitability of improbable, unpredictable but hugely disruptive events like the banking crash of 2008. Taleb, a derivatives trader, made a great deal of money out of that and other crashes by prudently investing on the assumption that something would go wrong even though nobody knew what that was. He talks about his follow-up book called ‘Anti-fragile: How to live in a world we don’t understand’

“Once you define fragility as one who does not like volatility and variability, and for statistical reasons you can, then the exact opposite is something that loves volatility, gains from disorder, variability, stresses and similar phenomena. This category of object doesn’t have a name, it is not resilient, it is not robust, it is something beyond. A lot of things require disorder and variability to function [Beautiful]. And of course we are harming by depriving them of disorder and variability”.

[Systems that appear to be robust, like the banking system, are in fact fragile?]

“Exactly. There are systems where the errors are small and systems where the errors are large. In a transport system, an accident lowers the probability of another accident. We never let an error go to waste. On the other hand the banking system, the failure of a bank makes the next bank failure more likely. It is not a healthy system”.

[In a world of big top-down organisations it is very difficult to organize?]

“It is actually simple. You can come up with single rules. The big thing for me is to transfer fragility from the individual to the system. Skin in the game. You get harmed by your mistake. A bureaucrat in Whitehall is not harmed, but if you live in a village you feel you’ve made a mistake. You have this kind of shame checking you. Decentralisation is a must. Mathematically I show how size compounds mistakes.” [Amazing]

BBC-Radio-3-logoNassim Taleb, the banker-turned-philosopher who predicted the financial collapse of 2008, has been called ‘the hottest thinker in the world’. His internationally bestselling book, The Black Swan, was about the impact of rare, unpredictable events. In his latest book he expands on this theory and comes up with the concept of ‘antifragile’ – the idea that through small shocks and surprises humans (and financial systems) can become more than robust – they can thrive and become antifragile. But critics have labelled this theory ‘antisocial’. Rana Mitter meets Nassim Taleb to test the robustness of his ideas, on Night Waves, at 10pm.

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