In its early phase, as the church was starting to get established in Europe, there was a group of itinerant people called the gyrovagues. They were gyrating and roaming monks without any affiliation to any institution. Theirs was a free-lance (and ambulatory) variety of monasticism, and their order was sustainable as the members lived off begging and from the good graces of townsmen who took interest in them. It is a weak form of sustainability, as one can hardly call sustainable a group of a people with vows of celibacy: they cannot grow organically and would need continuous enrollment. But their members managed to survive thanks to help from the population, which provided them with food and temporary shelter.
Sometimes around the fifth century, they started disappearing –they are now extinct. The gyrovagues were unpopular with the church, banned by the council of Chalcedon in the Fifth Century, then again by the second council of Nicaea about three hundred years later. In the West, Saint Benedict of Nurcia, their greatest detractor, favored a more institutional brand of monasticism and ended up prevailing with his rules that codified the activity, with a hierarchy and strong supervision by an abbot. For instance, Benedict’s rulesiii, put together in a sort of instruction manual, stipulate that a monk’s possessions should be in the hands of the abbot (Rule 33) and Rule 70 bans angry monks from hitting other monks.
Why were they banned? They were, simply, totally free. They were financially free, and secure, not because of their means but because of their wants. Ironically by being beggars, they had the equivalent of f*** you money, the one can get more easily by being at the lowest rung than by being member of the income dependent class.
On his facebook page, Nassim recently posted links to a new short technical paper on the probability distribution of p-values and a video commentary. He wrote:
I was able to pull out the exact meta-distribution of p-values (i.e. p-values as random variables). The point is that the same phenomenon will produce p-values all over the map. A true p-value of .12 will produce p-values <.05 more than half the time, so people may never replicate and get the same result. One Hundred Years of P-Value Bullshit!
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.”
Nassim’s statement on climate models, along with Joseph Norman, Rupert Read, and Yaneer Bar-Yam. He says, “We have *only one* planet and need to learn to live with imperfection of models.” Posted on Nassim’s facebook page.
Nassim shares his latest monograph (co-authored by Raphael Douady) and introduces his new venture in publishing at the same time:
Descartes Monographs accept only manuscripts that have been rigorously peer- reviewed or contain material that has appeared in peer-reviewed journals or has been sufficiently cited to merit inclusion in the series. Its aim is to “Überize” academic publishing by cutting the middleperson and producing books of the highest scientific quality at the most affordable price. Descartes engages in ethical publishing, avoiding double-charging the public sector for books produced on university time.
Chapter Summary 17: We extract the effect of size on the degradation of the expectation of a random variable, from nonlinear response. The method is general and allows to show the “small is beautiful” or “decentralized is effective” or “a diverse ecology is safer” effect from a response to a stochastic stressor and prove stochastic diseconomies of scale and concentration (with as example the Irish potato famine and GMOs). We apply the methodology to environmental harm using standard sigmoid dose-response to show the need to split sources of pollution across independent (nonsynergetic) pollutants.
Nassim recently posted a document called “Skepticism” on Facebook.
He had this to say about it:
Something people don’t get: more skepticism about climate models should lead to more “green” ecological conservationist policies not more lax pro-pollution ones. Why? Simply, uncertainty about the models increases fragility (and thickens the left tail), no matter what the benefits can be in the right tail. Added the section to the precautionary principle. Please discuss but stick to rigor and avoid buzzwords. (Also do not think that the idea is falling from the sky: it is a mere application of the fragility theorems).
The Skin In The Game Heuristic for Protection Against Tail Events
Constantine Sandis Oxford Brooks
Nassim Nicholas Taleb NYU-Poly; Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne – Centre d’Economie de la Sorbonne (CES)
July 30, 2013
Abstract: Standard economic theory makes an allowance for the agency problem, but not the compounding of moral hazard in the presence of informational opacity, particularly in what concerns high-impact events in fat tailed domains. But the ancients did; so did many aspects of moral philosophy. We propose a global and morally mandatory heuristic that anyone involved in an action which can possibly generate harm for others, even probabilistically, should be required to be exposed to some damage, regardless of context. While perhaps not sufficient, the heuristic is certainly necessary hence mandatory. It is supposed to counter risk hiding and transfer in the tails. We link the rule to various philosophical approaches to ethics and moral luck.