Category Archives: Intellectuals

Taleb’s limitations

I’m sorry for calling Batman a failed loser. I got emotional. It was unnecessarily harsh. Sand over it.

Next in our iconoclasm series: Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Judging from his twitter fights Taleb is definitely a righty. So this is not so much a personal attack on him as it is a rectification of his ideas.

Taleb is a very intelligent man. I wager he must’ve heard of Moldbug, perhaps even Spandrell, that he probably sees the merit of reactionary arguments. But as far as I know he has not explicitly spoken out in favor of them. This might be politically motivated, since his books are all NY Times bestsellers and he does not want to risk going the way of books-banned-from-Amazon uncle Roosh. Which is fair game.

My minor issue is with Taleb’s 2 main ideas: black swans and antifragility. Both are interesting concepts. But they are not as profound as we are led to believe. They are limited.

Take antifragility. The core idea is that, in life, nature has 3 responses to stress: fragile, robust, antifragile. Fragile is something that breaks, like a vase or your employment when you are fired. Robust is something that does not change in the face of stress, like a rock, or government employment. Antifragile is something that benefits from stress, like lifting iron increases muscle strength or a self-employed man specializing in one skill. Taleb’s conclusion is that, naturally, you want your life to be as antifragile as possible.

Now, this all makes sense to me. But my issue is that very few things, if any, are completely antifragile. Apply enough pressure and everything breaks. All antifragile systems operate within an overarching fragile system. Thus, muscles break when you lift too much iron. Thus, even though self-employed uncle Roosh built his life as antifragile as possible, the Amazon ban still hurts him and, although he loves to travel, can not travel to a bunch of countries.

The silent promise in antifragility is that by restructuring your life, you can somehow overcome man’s inherent fragility. You can’t. Antifragility exists and while it should be exploited as much as possible, a cure for human fragility it is not. Anti-fragility goes into the category of ‘good self-development’.

Next up, black swan events, which are, and I’m completely lifting this from Infogalactic, events¬†that come as a surprise, have a major effect, and are often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. Like antifragility, black swan events are real, but really, are just a synonym for: ‘weird stuff happens’. The future is unpredictable. Duh. The coining of the phrase ‘black swan events’ is not wrong, it’s just that it’s cookie cutter wisdom proven with math.

Seems to me the reasons the black swan meme became so popular is that it provided progs with a politically correct reason to explain 9/11, as opposed to the in hindsight obvious ‘muslims gonna muslim’ explanation. So for the politically correct, black swans are great at explaining politically incorrect truths. But again, not so much the category of ‘timeless truths’. Black swan events go into the category of ‘selling lefties sugar-coated red pills’. Which, it has to be said, is still a pretty cool category.

So, no hate, just wanted to point that out.