Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of Antifragile, Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about a recent co-authored paper on the risks of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the use of the Precautionary Principle. Taleb contrasts harm with ruin and explains how the differences imply different rules of behavior when dealing with the risk of each. Taleb argues that when considering the riskiness of GMOs, the right understanding of statistics is more valuable than expertise in biology or genetics. The central issue that pervades the conversation is how to cope with a small non-negligible risk of catastrophe.
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).
Nassim has completed his paper The Precautionary Principle: Fragility and Black Swans from Policy Actions with Yaneer Bar-Yam, Raphael Douady, Joseph Norman, & Rupert Read.
Link to the announcement on his Facebook Page here.