# Antifragile ![rw-book-cover](https://readwise-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/static/images/default-book-icon-1.a08c56e2fedd.png) ## Metadata - Author: [[Taleb, Nassim Nicholas]] - Full Title: Antifragile - Category: #books ## Highlights - using a simple test of asymmetry: anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile. (Location 378) - Black Swans hijack our brains, making us feel we “sort of” or “almost” predicted them, because they are retrospectively explainable. (Location 407) - But simplicity is not so simple to attain. Steve Jobs figured out that “you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” The Arabs have an expression for trenchant prose: no skill to understand it, mastery to write it. (Location 496) - Experience is devoid of the cherry-picking that we find in studies, particularly those called “observational,” ones in which the researcher finds past patterns, and, thanks to the sheer amount of data, can therefore fall into the trap of an invented narrative. (Location 557) - professional who is compensated to write and is taken seriously by others should use a more potent filter. Only distilled ideas, ones that sit in us for a long time, are acceptable—and those that come from reality. (Location 564) - He informed me—in response to the idea of antifragility—of a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth, the opposite of post-traumatic stress syndrome, by which people harmed by past events surpass themselves. (Location 937) ^02aa99 - Note: malcolm gladwell observation on how parents died at a very young age - Intellectuals tend to focus on negative responses from randomness (fragility) rather than the positive ones (antifragility). This is not just in psychology: it prevails across the board. (Location 942) - Note: two aspects of randomness one has to know. By cherry picking the good ideas i amm trying to bring a change in bias from the a priori perspctive - as we tend to think that innovation comes from bureaucratic funding, through planning, or by putting people through a Harvard Business School class by one Highly Decorated Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Location 951) - moderns try today to create inventions from situations of comfort, safety, and predictability instead of accepting the notion that “necessity really is the mother of invention.” (Location 956) - Cato the Censor, looked at comfort, almost any form of comfort, as a road to waste.1 He did not like it when we had it too easy, as he worried about the weakening of the will. (Location 958) - The world as a whole has never been richer, and it has never been more heavily in debt, living off borrowed money. The record shows that, for society, the richer we become, the harder it gets to live within our means. Abundance is harder for us to handle than scarcity. (Location 961) - The dulling of the pilot’s attention and skills from too little challenge is indeed causing deaths from flying accidents. Part of the problem is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulation that forced the industry to increase its reliance on automated flying. But, thankfully, the same FAA finally figured out the problem; it has recently found that pilots often “abdicate too much responsibility to automated systems.” (Location 964) - Also, it is a well-known trick that if you need something urgently done, give the task to the busiest (or second busiest) person in the office. Most humans manage to squander their free time, as free time makes them dysfunctional, lazy, and unmotivated—the busier they get, the more active they are at other tasks. Overcompensation, here again. I’ve discovered a trick when giving lectures. (Location 972) - Note: this is why i should go to barefoot college - I have called this mental defect the Lucretius problem, after the Latin poetic philosopher who wrote that the fool believes that the tallest mountain in the world will be equal to the tallest one he has observed. (Location 1018) - Note: the scenario will be worser than the worst case scenario - Psychologists have shown the irony of the process of thought control: the more energy you put into trying to control your ideas and what you think about, the more your ideas end up controlling you. (Location 1083) - Balzac recounts how actresses paid journalists (often in kind) to write favorable accounts—but the wiliest got them to write unfavorable comments, knowing that it made them more interesting. (Location 1101) - My great-grandfather Nicolas Ghosn was a wily politician who managed to stay permanently in power and hold government positions in spite of his numerous enemies (most notably his archenemy, my great-great-grandfather on the Taleb side of the family). As my grandfather, his eldest son, was starting his administrative and hopefully political career, his father summoned him to his deathbed. “My son, I am very disappointed in you,” he said. “I never hear anything wrong said about you. You have proven yourself incapable of generating envy.” (Location 1115) - carbon nanotubes arranged in a certain manner produces a self-strengthening response previously unseen in synthetic materials, “similar to the localized self-strengthening that occurs in biological structures.” This crosses the boundary between the living and the inanimate, as it can lead to the development of adaptable load-bearing material. (Location 1180) - True, while humans self-repair, they eventually wear out (hopefully leaving their genes, books, or some other information behind—another discussion). But (Location 1188) - In the complex world, the notion of “cause” itself is suspect; it is either nearly impossible to detect or not really defined—another reason to ignore newspapers, with their constant supply of causes for things. (Location 1212) - Your skin lightens in the winter and tans in the summer (especially if you have Mediterranean origins, less so if you are of Irish or African descent or from other places with more uniform weather throughout the year). (Location 1220) - management information, as their logical faculties are not very developed. For complex systems are, well, all about information. And there are many more conveyors (Location 1223) - get mellow and lose physical energy when it rains, become more meditative, and tend to write more and more slowly then, with the raindrops hitting the window, what Verlaine called autumnal “sobs” (sanglots). Some days I enter poetic melancholic states, what the Portuguese call saudade or the Turks hüzün (from the Arabic word for sadness). Other days I am more aggressive, have more energy—and will write less, walk more, do other things, argue with researchers, answer emails, draw graphs on blackboards. Should I be turned into a vegetable or a happy imbecile? (Location 1290) - Yet the best way to learn a language may be an episode of jail in a foreign country. My friend Chad Garcia improved his Russian thanks to an involuntary stay in the quarantine section of a hospital in Moscow for an imagined disease. (Location 1312) - Note: best way to learn a language - My friend Chad benefited from the kind of disorder that is less and less prevalent thanks to the modern disease of touristification. This is my term for an aspect of modern life that treats humans as washing machines, with simplified mechanical responses—and a detailed user’s manual. It is the systematic removal of uncertainty and randomness from things, trying to make matters highly predictable in their smallest details. All that for the sake of comfort, convenience, and efficiency. (Location 1317) - Note: systematic removal of randomness from ones life - There is a titillating feeling associated with randomness. We like the moderate (and highly domesticated) world of games, from spectator sports to having our breathing suspended between crap shoots during the next visit to Las Vegas. (Location 1330) - Note: we omehowb thrive on chance - Further, this randomness is necessary for true life. Consider that all the wealth of the world can’t buy a liquid more pleasurable than water after intense thirst. Few objects bring more thrill than a recovered wallet (or laptop) lost on a train. (Location 1336) - Note: i felt good thrill when i lost my wallet in the toronto subway. kahnemann hedonimeter. heroic deaths annd punishment. more fight and flight responses. we should engage them. - There exist the kind of people for whom life is some kind of project. After talking to them, you stop feeling good for a few hours; life starts tasting like food cooked without salt. I, a thrill-seeking human, have a b***t detector that seems to match my boredom detector, as if we were equipped with a naturalistic filter, dullness-aversion. Ancestral life had no homework, no boss, no civil servants, no academic grades, no conversation with the dean, no consultant with an MBA, no table of procedure, no application form, no trip to New Jersey, no grammatical stickler, no conversation with someone boring you: all life was random stimuli and nothing, good or bad, ever felt like work.3 Dangerous, yes, but boring, never. (Location 1343) - Note: good or bad, but boring never - Another way to see it: machines are harmed by low-level stressors (material fatigue), organisms are harmed by the absence of low-level stressors (hormesis). (Location 1354) - Note: yes - from the inside, there are winners and losers. How does this layering (Location 1460) - There is something like a switch in us that kills the individual in favor of the collective when people engage in communal dances, mass riots, or war. Your mood is now that of the herd. You are part of what Elias Canetti calls the rhythmic and throbbing crowd. You can also feel a different variety of crowd experience during your next street riot, when fear of authorities vanishes completely under group fever. (Location 1576) - notion of improvement thanks to harm to others. As a humanist, I stand against the antifragility of systems at the expense of individuals, for if you follow the reasoning, this makes us humans individually irrelevant. (Location 1586) - Note: anntifragility of the system at the expnse of the inddidvidul - presence of interdependence and complexity.4 In the Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia, the designation “man of honor” (uomo d’onore) implies that the person caught by the police would remain silent and not rat on his friends, regardless of benefits, and that life in prison is preferable to a plea that entails hurting other members. The tribe (Cosa Nostra) comes before the individual. And what broke the back of the mafia was the recent generation of plea bargainers. (Location 1598) - In order to progress, modern society should be treating ruined entrepreneurs in the same way we honor dead soldiers, perhaps not with as much honor, but using exactly the same logic (the entrepreneur is still alive, though perhaps morally broken and socially stigmatized, particularly if he lives in Japan). For there is no such thing as a failed soldier, dead or alive (unless he acted in a cowardly manner)—likewise, there is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur or failed scientific researcher, any more than there is a successful babbler, philosophaster, commentator, consultant, lobbyist, or business school professor who does not take personal risks. (Location 1618) - Note: nationall entrepreneur day - Note for now that this is the last major country that is not a nation-state, but rather a collection of small municipalities left to their own devices. (Location 1762) - Note: swiss - The way people handle local affairs is vastly different from the way they handle large, abstract public expenditures: we have traditionally lived in small units and tribes and managed rather well in small units. (Location 1775) - Note: small is better - Further, biology plays a role in a municipal environment, not in a larger system. An administration is shielded from having to feel the sting of shame (with flushing in his face), a biological reaction to overspending and other failures such as killing people in Vietnam. Eye contact with one’s peers changes one’s behavior. But for a desk-grounded office leech, a number is a just a number. Someone you see in church Sunday morning would feel uncomfortable for his mistakes—and more responsible for them. On the small, local scale, his body and biological response would direct him to avoid causing harm to others. On a large scale, others are abstract items; given the lack of social contact with the people concerned, the civil servant’s brain leads rather than his emotions—with numbers, spreadsheets, statistics, more spreadsheets, and theories. (Location 1778) - Note: emotions trump statistics - co-author Mark Blyth, he blurted out the obvious: “Stalin could not have existed in a municipality.” (Location 1784) - Note: stalin could not have existed in municipality - The same bottom-up effect applies to law. The Italian political and legal philosopher Bruno Leoni has argued in favor of the robustness of judge-based law (owing to its diversity) as compared to explicit and rigid codifications. True, the choice of a court could be a lottery—but it helps prevent large-scale mistakes. (Location 1801) - Note: judge based law italian philosopher - What the Baath Party did, in its “modernization” program, was to remove the archaic mess of the souks and replace them with the crisp modernism of the office building. (Location 1884) - Note: how curbing the volatility att the basic level can leeAd to high impact at the major governmennt levl - Nor did the point escape Machiavelli. Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, citing him: “It seemed, wrote Machiavelli, that in the midst of murders and civil wars, our republic became stronger [and] its citizens infused with virtues.… A little bit of agitation gives resources to souls and what makes the species prosper isn’t peace, but freedom.” (Location 1903) - Note: what makes tge city prosper snt peace but freedom - In reality, the Ottomans did these vassals and suzerains a favor by preventing them from involvement in warfare—this took away militaristic temptations and helped them thrive; regardless of how iniquitous the system seemed to be on the surface, it allowed locals to focus on commerce rather than war. It protected them from themselves. This is the argument brought by David Hume in his History of England in favor of small states, as large states get tempted by warfare. (Location 1912) - Note: note what is davvd humes argument when the collection of small states are attacked by an external agent - while wars have the potential to be more criminal. We were very close to the mother of all catastrophes in the 1960s when the United States was about to pull the nuclear trigger on the Soviet Union. Very close. When we look at risks in Extremistan, we don’t look at evidence (evidence comes too late), we look at potential damage: never has the world been more prone to more damage; never.6 It is hard to explain to naive data-driven people that risk is in the future, not in the past. (Location 1941) - Note: alternate histories - Thankfully, the European Union is legally protected from overcentralization thanks to the principle of subsidiarity: things should be handled by the smallest possible unit that can manage them with efficacy. The idea was inherited from the Catholic Church: philosophically, a unit doesn’t need to be very large (the state) nor very small (the individual), but somewhere in between. This is a powerful philosophical statement, particularly in light of both the transfers of fragility we saw in Chapter 4 and the notion that size fragilizes, much on which later. (Location 1961) - Note: what about european union - Note that people invoke an expression, “Balkanization,” about the mess created by fragmented states, as if fragmentation was a bad thing, and as if there was an alternative in the Balkans—but nobody uses “Helvetization” to describe its successes. (Location 1969) - Note: balkanization is not a bad thing - A scientific argument showing how tight controls backfire and cause blowups was made by James Clerk Maxwell of electromagnetic theory fame. “Governors” are contraptions meant to control the speed of steam engines by compensating for abrupt variations. They aimed at stabilizing the engines, and they apparently did, but they paradoxically sometimes brought about capricious behavior and crashes. Light control works; close control leads to overreaction, sometimes causing the machinery to break into pieces. In a famous paper “On Governors,” published in 1867, Maxwell modeled the behavior and showed mathematically that tightly controlling the speed of engines leads to instability. (Location 1983) - Note: tight controls cann lead to larger instability - Indeed, confusing people a little bit is beneficial—it is good for you and good for them. For an application of the point in daily life, imagine someone extremely punctual and predictable who comes home at exactly six o’clock every day for fifteen years. You can use his arrival to set your watch. The fellow will cause his family anxiety if he is barely a few minutes late. Someone with a slightly more volatile—hence unpredictable—schedule, with, say, a half-hour variation, won’t do (Location 1994) - Note: anxiety when you come a little late when you generally come and go with proper precision - For similar reasons, stability is not good for the economy: firms become very weak during long periods of steady prosperity devoid of setbacks, and hidden vulnerabilities accumulate silently under the surface—so delaying crises is not a very good idea. (Location 2000) - Note: delaying crisis is not a good idea - So far we have argued that preventing randomness in an antifragile system is not always a good idea. Let us now look at the situation in which adding randomness has been a standard operating method, as the needed fuel for an antifragile system permanently hungry for it. (Location 2012) - Note: adding randomness against preventing randomness - A donkey equally famished and thirsty caught at an equal distance between food and water would unavoidably die of hunger or thirst. But he can be saved thanks to a random nudge one way or the other. This metaphor is named Buridan’s Donkey, after the medieval philosopher Jean de Buridan, who—among other, very complicated things—introduced the thought experiment. (Location 2014) - Note: buridan's donkey - By a mechanism called stochastic resonance, adding random noise to the background makes you hear the sounds (say, music) with more accuracy. (Location 2019) - Note: stochastic resonance - Weak SOS signals, too weak to get picked up by remote receptors, can become audible in the presence of background noise and random interference. (Location 2021) - Note: weak sos signals with ranndom noise interference - Consider the method of annealing in metallurgy, a technique used to make metal stronger and more homogeneous. It involves the heating and controlled cooling of a material, to increase the size of the crystals and reduce their defects. Just as with Buridan’s donkey, the heat causes the atoms to become unstuck from their initial positions and wander randomly through states of higher energy; the cooling gives them more chances of finding new, better configurations. (Location 2023) - Note: annealing for better crystals randomness - Inspired by the metallurgical technique, mathematicians use a method of computer simulation called simulated annealing to bring more general optimal solutions to problems and situations, solutions that only randomness can deliver. (Location 2029) - Note: stimulated annealing whhrein randomness can ai the process - Randomness works well in search—sometimes better than humans. Nathan Myhrvold brought to my attention a controversial 1975 paper published in Science showing that random drilling was superior to whatever search method was being employed at the time. (Location 2031) - And, ironically, the so-called chaotic systems, those experiencing a brand of variations called chaos, can be stabilized by adding randomness to them. (Location 2033) - watched an eerie demonstration of the effects, presented by a doctoral student who first got balls to jump chaotically on a table in response to steady vibrations on the surface. These steady shocks made the balls jump in a jumbled and inelegant manner. Then, as by magic, he moved a switch and the jumps became orderly and smooth. The magic is that such change of regime, from chaos to order, did not take place by removing chaos, but by adding random, completely random but low-intensity shocks. I came out of the beautiful experiment with so much enthusiasm that I wanted to inform strangers on the street, “I love randomness!” (Location 2034) - I immediately thought that perhaps the opposite parable should be written: instead of having the rulers randomize the jobs of citizens, we should have citizens randomize the jobs of rulers, naming them by raffles and removing them at random as well. That is similar to simulated annealing—and it happens to be no less effective. It turned out that the ancients—again, those ancients!—were aware of it: the members of the Athenian assemblies were chosen by lot, a method meant to protect the system from degeneracy. Luckily, this effect has been investigated with modern political systems. In a computer simulation, Alessandro Pluchino and his colleagues showed how adding a certain number of randomly selected politicians to the process can improve the functioning of the parliamentary system. (Location 2045) - Or sometimes the system benefits from a different type of stressors. For Voltaire, the best form of government was the one tempered with political assassination. Regicide is sort of the equivalent of tapping on the barometer to make it work better. That, too, creates some often-needed reshuffling, and one that would never have been done voluntarily. The void created at the top allows the annealing effect, causing the new leader to emerge. The secular drop in premature deaths in society has deprived us of a naturalistic managerial turnover. (Location 2050) - Finally the ancients perfected the method of random draw in more or less difficult situations—and integrated it into divinations. These draws were really meant to pick a random exit without having to make a decision, so one would not have to live with the burden of the consequences later. (Location 2059) - Note: to not live with the burden of consequence - One of the methods, called sortes virgilianae (fate as decided by the epic poet Virgil), involved opening Virgil’s Aeneid at random and interpreting the line that presented itself as direction for the course of action. You should use such method for every sticky business decision. I will repeat until I get hoarse: the ancients evolved hidden and sophisticated ways and tricks to exploit randomness. For instance, I actually practice such randomizing heuristic in restaurants. (Location 2061) - Note: restaurant trick - Given the lengthening and complication of menus, subjecting me to what psychologists call the tyranny of choice, with the stinging feeling after my decision that I should have ordered something else, I blindly and systematically duplicate the selection by the most overweight male at the table; and when no such person is present, I randomly pick from the menu without reading the name of the item, under the peace of mind that Baal made the choice for me. (Location 2065) - Saudi Arabia is the country that at present worries and offends me the most; it is a standard case of top-down stability enforced by a superpower at the expense of every single possible moral and ethical metric—and, of course, at the expense of stability itself. (Location 2093) - Note: bad exampl of top down stability - More worrisome, U.S. policy toward the Middle East has historically, and especially since September 11, 2001, been unduly focused on the repression of any and all political fluctuations in the name of preventing “Islamic fundamentalism”—a trope that almost every regime has used. Aside from the fact that killing Islamists compounds their numbers, the West and its autocratic Arab allies have strengthened Islamic fundamentalists by forcing them underground. (Location 2109) - Note: underground rebellion - Consider the life of the lion in the comfort and predictability of the Bronx Zoo (with Sunday afternoon visitors flocking to look at him in a combination of curiosity, awe, and pity) compared to that of his cousins in freedom. We, at some point, had free-range humans and free-range children before the advent of the golden period of the soccer mom. (Location 2123) - We are moving into a phase of modernity marked by the lobbyist, the very, very limited liability corporation, the MBA, sucker problems, secularization (or rather reinvention of new sacred values like flags to replace altars), the tax man, fear of the boss, spending the weekend in interesting places and the workweek in a putatively less interesting one, the separation of “work” and “leisure” (though the two would look identical to someone from a wiser era), the retirement plan, argumentative intellectuals who would disagree with this definition of modernity, literal thinking, inductive inference, philosophy of science, the invention of social science, smooth surfaces, and egocentric architects. Violence is transferred from individuals to states. So is financial indiscipline. At the center of all this is the denial of antifragility. (Location 2126) - The story of the nation-state is that of the concentration and magnification of human errors. Modernity starts with the state monopoly on violence, and ends with the state’s monopoly on fiscal irresponsibility. (Location 2143) - While we now have a word for causing harm while trying to help, (Location 2218) - Note: iatrogenics - Perhaps the idea behind capitalism is an inverse-iatrogenic effect, the unintended-but-not-so-unintended consequences: the system facilitates the conversion of selfish aims (or, to be correct, not necessarily benevolent ones) at the individual level into beneficial results for the collective. (Location 2227) - Note: capitalism smooths things out - and go again; phenomenologies stay, and I can’t (Location 2255) - On the other hand, social science seems to diverge from theory to theory. During the cold war, the University of Chicago was promoting laissez-faire theories, while the University of Moscow taught the exact opposite—but their respective physics departments were in convergence, if not total agreement. This is the reason I put social science theories in the left column of the Triad, as something superfragile for real-world decisions and unusable for risk analyses. The very designation “theory” is even upsetting. In social science we should call these constructs “chimeras” rather than theories. (Location 2264) - An ethical problem arises when someone is put in charge. Greenspan’s actions were harmful, but even if he knew that, it would have taken a bit of heroic courage to justify inaction in a democracy where the incentive is to always promise a better outcome than the other guy, regardless of the actual, delayed cost. (Location 2284) - What should we control? As a rule, intervening to limit size (of companies, airports, or sources of pollution), concentration, and speed are beneficial in reducing Black Swan risks. (Location 2311) - Note: intervene whhn required. size is important to be controlled - But I also buy the opposite argument that regulating street signs does not seem to reduce risks; drivers become more placid. Experiments show that alertness is weakened when one relinquishes control to the system (again, lack of overcompensation). Motorists need the stressors and tension coming from the feeling of danger to feed their attention and risk controls, rather than some external regulator—fewer pedestrians die jaywalking than using regulated crossings. (Location 2318) - We saw a version of the Drachten effect in Chapter 2 in the discussion of the automation of planes, which produces the exact opposite effect than what is intended by making pilots lose alertness. (Location 2324) - I’ve looked in history for heroes who became heroes for what they did not do, but it is hard to observe nonaction; I (Location 2342) - The true hero in the Black Swan world is someone who prevents a calamity and, naturally, because the calamity did not take place, does not get recognition—or a bonus—for (Location 2346) - There is a Latin expression festina lente, “make haste slowly.” The Romans were not the only ancients to respect the act of voluntary omission. The Chinese thinker Lao Tzu coined the doctrine of wu-wei, “passive achievement.” (Location 2359) - Granted, in the modern world, my tax return is not going to take care of itself—but by delaying a non-vital visit to a doctor, or deferring the writing of a passage until my body tells me that I am ready for it, I may be using a very potent naturalistic filter. I write only if I feel like it and only on a subject I feel like writing about—and the reader is no fool. So I use procrastination as a message from my inner self and my deep evolutionary past to resist interventionism in my writing. Yet some psychologists and behavioral economists seem to think that procrastination is a disease to be remedied and cured. (Location 2363) - Using my ecological reasoning, someone who procrastinates is not irrational; it is his environment that is irrational. And the psychologist or economist calling him irrational is the one who is beyond irrational. (Location 2382) - For a sample of a composed, calm, and pondered voice, listen to interviews with “Sammy the Bull,” Salvatore Gravano, who was involved in the murder of nineteen people (all competing mobsters). He speaks with minimal effort, as if what he is discussing is “not a big deal.” (Location 2403) - In science, noise is a generalization beyond the actual sound to describe random information that is totally useless for any purpose, and that you need to clean up to make sense of what you are listening to. (Location 2410) - Note: (except in this case where we try to make use of it) - If you want to accelerate someone’s death, give him a personal doctor. I don’t mean provide him with a bad doctor: just pay for him to choose his own. Any doctor will do. This may be the only possible way to murder someone while staying squarely within the law. (Location 2415) - Rory Sutherland signaled to me that someone with a personal doctor on staff should be particularly vulnerable to naive interventionism, (Location 2418) - doctors need to justify their salaries and prove to themselves that they have a modicum of work ethic, something that “doing nothing” doesn’t satisfy. (Location 2419) - Did you ever wonder why heads of state and very rich people with access to all this medical care die just as easily as regular persons? Well, it looks like this is because of overmedication and excessive medical care. (Location 2422) - The more frequently you look at data, the more noise you are disproportionally likely to get (rather than the valuable part, called the signal); hence the higher the noise-to-signal ratio. (Location 2431) - Note: why daily newspapers are not good the signal to noise ratio - Say you look at information on a yearly basis, for stock prices, or the fertilizer sales of your father-in-law’s factory, or inflation numbers in Vladivostok. Assume further that for what you are observing, at a yearly frequency, the ratio of signal to noise is about one to one (half noise, half signal)—this means that about half the changes are real improvements or degradations, the other half come from randomness. This ratio is what you get from yearly observations. But if you look at the very same data on a daily basis, the composition would change to 95 percent noise, 5 percent signal. And if you observe data on an hourly basis, as people immersed in the news and market price variations do, the split becomes 99.5 percent noise to 0.5 percent signal. That is two hundred times more noise than signal—which is why anyone who listens to news (except when very, very significant events take place) is one step below sucker. (Location 2433) - This is hard to accept in the age of the Internet. It has been very hard for me to explain that the more data you get, the less you know what’s going on, and the more iatrogenics you will cause. (Location 2465) - it counts as the true French national sport. (Location 2502) - Mark Blyth, showed me that there, too, was a false narrative: it was almost the same story as in Switzerland (but with a worse climate and no good ski resorts). The state exists as a tax collector, but the money is spent in the communes themselves, directed by the communes—for, say, skills training locally determined as deemed necessary by the community themselves, to respond to private demand for workers. The economic elites have more freedom than in most other democracies—this is far from the statism one can assume from the outside. (Location 2515) - In 2011, U.S. president Barack Obama blamed an intelligence failure for the government’s not foreseeing the revolution in Egypt that took place that spring (just as former U.S. president Jimmy Carter blamed an intelligence failure for his administration’s not foreseeing the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran), missing the point that it is the suppressed risk in the statistical “tails” that matters—not the failure to see the last grain of sand. (Location 2526) - Note: catalyst as cause confusion - As Mark Abdollahian of Sentia Group, one of the contractors who sell predictive analytics to the U.S. government (those that failed to warn), noted regarding Egypt, policy makers should “think of this like Las Vegas. In blackjack, if you can do four percent better than the average, you’re making real money.” But the analogy is spurious—pretty much everything I stand against. There is no “four percent better” on Egypt. This was not just money wasted but the construction of a false confidence based on an erroneous focus. It is telling that the intelligence analysts made the same mistake as the risk-management systems that failed to predict the economic crisis—and offered the exact same excuses when they failed. Political and economic “tail events” are unpredictable, and their probabilities are not scientifically measurable. No matter how many dollars are spent on research, predicting revolutions is not the same as counting cards; humans will never be able to turn politics and economics into the tractable randomness of blackjack. (Location 2543) - What was getting me in that state of anger was my realization that forecasting was not neutral. It is all in the iatrogenics. Forecasting can be downright injurious to risk-takers—no (Location 2581) - In spite of their bad press, some people in the nuclear industry seem to be among the rare ones to have gotten the point and taken it to its logical consequence. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, instead of predicting failure and the probabilities of disaster, these intelligent nuclear firms are now aware that they should instead focus on exposure to failure—making the prediction or nonprediction of failure quite irrelevant. (Location 2613) - No More Black Swans Meanwhile, over the past few years, the world has also gone the other way, upon the discovery of the Black Swan idea. Opportunists are now into predicting, predictioning, and predictionizing Black Swans with even more complicated models coming from chaos-complexity-catastrophe-fractal theory. Yet, again, the answer is simple: less is more; move the discourse to (anti)fragility. (Location 2642) - You can’t predict in general, but you can predict that those who rely on predictions are taking more risks, will have some trouble, perhaps even go bust. Why? Someone who predicts will be fragile to prediction errors. An overconfident pilot will eventually crash the plane. And numerical prediction leads people to take more risks. (Location 2802) - My point is that wisdom in decision making is vastly more important—not just practically, but philosophically—than knowledge. (Location 2826) - Note: why should one go practical instead of philosophical in terms of decision making - To become a successful philosopher king, it is much better to start as a king than as a philosopher, as illustrated in the following contemporary story. (Location 2830) - Note: it is better to go from practise to theory, than from theory to practise - By contrast, Seneca is nothing but “this is serious.” He once survived a shipwreck in which other family members perished, and he wrote letters of practical and less practical advice to his friends. In the end, when he took his own life, he followed excellently and in a dignified way the principles he preached in his writings. So while the Harvard economist is only read by people trying to write papers, who in turn are read by people trying to write papers, and will be (hopefully) swallowed by the inexorable b***t detector of history, Lucius Annaeus, known as Seneca the Younger, is still read by real people two millennia after his passing. (Location 2839) - And Stoics look down on luxury: about a fellow who led a lavish life, Seneca wrote: “He is in debt, whether he borrowed from another person or from fortune.” (Location 2853) - Success brings an asymmetry: you now have a lot more to lose than to gain. You are hence fragile. (Location 2870) - But, before that, for my last job, I wrote my resignation letter before starting the new position, locked it up in a drawer, and felt free while I was there. (Location 2891) - Note: write a resignation letter before you even start your job to feel free without things trying to hold you from doing so - One trick, for instance, that a Roman Stoic would use to separate anger from rightful action and avoid committing harm he would regret later would be to wait at least a day before beating up a servant who committed a violation. (Location 2904) - He said that wealth is the slave of the wise man and master of the fool. Thus he broke a bit with the purported Stoic habit: he kept the upside. In my opinion, if previous Stoics claimed to prefer poverty to wealth, we need to be suspicious of their attitude, as it may be just all talk. (Location 2911) - Path dependence can be illustrated as follows: your experience in getting a kidney stone operation first and anesthesia later is different from having the procedures done in the opposite sequence. Or your enjoyment of a meal with coffee and dessert first and tomato soup last would not be the same as the inverse order. The consideration of path dependence makes our approach simple: it is easy to identify the fragile and put it in the left column of the Triad, regardless of upside potential—since the broken will tend to stay permanently broken. (Location 2958) - As to growth in GDP (gross domestic product), it can be obtained very easily by loading future generations with debt—and the future economy may collapse upon the need to repay such debt. (Location 2975) - Indeed, growth was very modest, less than 1 percent per head, throughout the golden years surrounding the Industrial Revolution, the period that propelled Europe into domination. But as low as it was, it was robust growth—unlike the current fools’ race of states shooting for growth like teenage drivers infatuated with speed. (Location 2979) - Females in the animal kingdom, in some monogamous species (which include humans), tend to marry the equivalent of the accountant, or, even more colorless, the economist, someone stable who can provide, and once in a while they cheat with the aggressive alpha, the rock star, as part of a dual strategy. They limit their downside while using extrapair copulation to get the genetic upside, or some great fun, or both. Even the timing of the cheating seems nonrandom, as it corresponds to periods with high likelihood of pregnancy. We see evidence of such a strategy with the so-called monogamous birds: they enjoy cheating, with more than a tenth of the broods coming from males other than the putative father. (Location 3009) - European literary writers to look for a sinecure, say, the anxiety-free profession of civil servant, with few intellectual demands and high job security, the kind of low-risk job that ceases to exist when you leave the office, then spend their spare time writing, free to write (Location 3030) - For instance, the great French poets Paul Claudel and Saint-John Perse and the novelist Stendhal were diplomats; a large segment of English writers were civil servants (Trollope was a post office worker); Kafka was employed by an insurance company. Best of all, Spinoza worked as a lens maker, which left his philosophy completely immune to any form of academic corruption. (Location 3037) - separate. Indeed, Georges Simenon, one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century, only wrote sixty days a year, with three hundred days spent “doing nothing.” He published more than two hundred novels. (Location 3055) - Let us take a peek at a few domains. With personal risks, you can easily barbell yourself by removing the chances of ruin in any area. I am personally completely paranoid about certain risks, then very aggressive with others. The rules are: no smoking, no sugar (particularly fructose), no motorcycles, no bicycles in town or more generally outside a traffic-free area such as the Sahara desert, no mixing with the Eastern European mafias, and no getting on a plane not flown by a professional pilot (unless there is a co-pilot). Outside of these I can take all manner of professional and personal risks, particularly those in which there is no risk of terminal injury. (Location 3059) - More barbells. Do crazy things (break furniture once in a while), like the Greeks during the later stages of a drinking symposium, and stay “rational” in larger decisions. Trashy gossip magazines and classics or sophisticated works; never middlebrow stuff. Talk to either undergraduate students, cab drivers, and gardeners or the highest caliber scholars; never to middling-but-career-conscious academics. If you dislike someone, leave him alone or eliminate him; don’t attack him verbally ^319331 - So let us call here the teleological fallacy the illusion that you know exactly where you are going, and that you knew exactly where you were going in the past, and that others have succeeded in the past by knowing where they were going. (Location 3122) - The rational flâneur is someone who, unlike a tourist, makes a decision at every step to revise his schedule, so he can imbibe things based on new information, (Location 3124) - his travels, often guided by his sense of smell. The flâneur is not a prisoner of a plan. (Location 3125) - Tourism, actual or figurative, is imbued with the teleological illusion; it assumes completeness of vision and gets one locked into a hard-to-revise program, while the flâneur continuously—and, what is crucial, rationally—modifies his targets as he acquires information. (Location 3126) - Now a warning: the opportunism of the flâneur is great in life and business—but not in personal life and matters that involve others. The opposite of opportunism in human relations is loyalty, a noble sentiment—but one that needs to be invested in the right places, that is, in human relations and moral commitments. (Location 3128) - Note: the opposite of flaneurism is loyalty invested in the right places - Never ask people what they want, or where they want to go, or where they think they should go, or, worse, what they think they will desire tomorrow. The strength of the computer entrepreneur Steve Jobs was precisely in distrusting market research and focus groups—those based on asking people what they want—and following his own imagination. His modus was that people don’t know what they want until you provide them with it. (Location 3133) - What he collected was large, perhaps not enough to make him massively wealthy, but enough to make the point—to others but also, I suspect, to himself—that he talked the talk and was truly above, not below, wealth. This kind of sum I’ve called in my vernacular “f*** you money”—a sum large enough to get most, if not all, of the advantages of wealth (the most important one being independence and the ability to only occupy your mind with matters that interest you) but not its side effects, such as having to attend a black-tie charity event and being forced to listen to a polite exposition of the details of a marble-rich house renovation. (Location 3165) - [[Michel de Montaigne]] sees the Thales episode as a story of immunity to sour grapes: you need to know whether you do not like the pursuit of money and wealth because you genuinely do not like it, or because you are rationalizing your inability to be successful at it with the argument that wealth is not a good thing because it is bad for one’s digestive system or disturbing for one’s sleep or other such arguments. (Location 3202) - Further, it helps when supporters are both enthusiastic and influential. Wittgenstein, for instance, was largely considered a lunatic, a strange bird, or just a b***t operator by those whose opinion didn’t count (he had almost no publications to his name). But he had a small number of cultlike followers, and some, such as Bertrand Russell and J. M. Keynes, were massively influential. Beyond books, consider this simple heuristic: your work and ideas, whether in politics, the arts, or other domains, are antifragile if, instead of having one hundred percent of the people finding your mission acceptable or mildly commendable, you are better off having a high percentage of people disliking you and your message (even intensely), combined with a low percentage of extremely loyal and enthusiastic supporters. (Location 3247) - Harvard’s former president Larry Summers got in trouble (clumsily) explaining a version of the point and lost his job in the aftermath of the uproar. He was trying to say that males and females have equal intelligence, but the male population has more variations and dispersion (hence volatility), with more highly unintelligent men, and more highly intelligent ones. For Summers, this explained why men were overrepresented in the scientific and intellectual community (and also why men were overrepresented in jails or failures). (Location 3263) - The number of successful scientists depends on the “tails,” the extremes, rather than the average. Just as an option does not care about the adverse outcomes, or an author does not care about the haters. (Location 3267) - No one at present dares to state the obvious: growth in society may not come from raising the average the Asian way, but from increasing the number of people in the “tails,” that small, very small number of risk takers crazy enough to have ideas of their own, those endowed with that very rare ability called imagination, that rarer quality called courage, and who make things happen. (Location 3268) - evolution can produce astonishingly sophisticated objects without intelligence, simply thanks to a combination of optionality and some type of a selection filter, plus some randomness, as we see next. (Location 3285) - The great French biologist François Jacob introduced into science the notion of options (or option-like characteristics) in natural systems, thanks to trial and error, under a variant called bricolage in French. Bricolage is a form of trial and error close to tweaking, trying to make do with what you’ve got by recycling pieces that would be otherwise wasted. Jacob argued that even within the womb, nature knows how to select: about half of all embryos undergo a spontaneous abortion—easier to do so than design the perfect baby by blueprint. Nature simply keeps what it likes if it meets its standards or does a California-style “fail early”—it has an option and uses it. Nature understands optionality effects vastly better than humans, and certainly better than Aristotle. (Location 3287) - To crystallize, take this description of an option: Option = asymmetry + rationality The rationality part lies in keeping what is good and ditching the bad, knowing to take the profits. (Location 3309) - One day, my friend Anthony Glickman, a rabbi and Talmudic scholar turned option trader, then turned again rabbi and Talmudic scholar (so far), after one of these conversations about how this optionality applies to everything around us, perhaps after one of my tirades on Stoicism, calmly announced: “Life is long gamma.” (To repeat, in the jargon, “long” means “benefits from” and “short” “hurt by,” and “gamma” is a name for the nonlinearity of options, so “long gamma” means “benefits from volatility and variability.” Anthony even had as his mail address “@longgamma.com.”) (Location 3331) - Note: ask phaneendra what he intuitively means by long gamma - Can you imagine that it took close to six thousand years between the invention of the wheel (by, we assume, the Mesopotamians) and this brilliant implementation (by some luggage maker in a drab industrial suburb)? And billions of hours spent by travelers like myself schlepping luggage through corridors full of rude customs officers. Worse, this took place three decades or so after we put a man on the moon. (Location 3393) - Note: what elon musk says that technology might diminish if creative individuals dolnt put effort is right - The story of the wheel also illustrates the point of this chapter: both governments and universities have done very, very little for innovation and discovery, precisely because, in addition to their blinding rationalism, they look for the complicated, the lurid, the newsworthy, the narrated, the scientistic, and the grandiose, rarely for the wheel on the suitcase. Simplicity, I realized, does not lead to laurels. (Location 3440) - Note: simplicity does not lead to laurels - We saw the gap between the wheel and its use. Medical researchers call such lag the “translational gap,” the time difference between formal discovery and first implementation, which, if anything, owing to excessive noise and academic interests, has been shown by Contopoulos-Ioannidis and her peers to be lengthening in modern times. (Location 3449) - Note: translational gap which could be countered by random digging of research papers - The historian David Wooton relates a gap of two centuries between the discovery of germs and the acceptance of germs as a cause of disease, a delay of thirty years between the germ theory of putrefaction and the development of antisepsis, and a delay of sixty years between antisepsis and drug therapy. (Location 3452) - Trial and error has one overriding value people fail to understand: it is not really random, rather, thanks to optionality, it requires some rationality. One needs to be intelligent in recognizing the favorable outcome and knowing what to discard. And one needs to be rational in not making trial and error completely random. If you are looking for your misplaced wallet in your living room, in a trial and error mode, you exercise rationality by not looking in the same place twice. In many pursuits, every trial, every failure provides additional information, each more valuable than the previous one—if you know what does not work, or where the wallet is not located. With every trial one gets closer to something, assuming an environment in which one knows exactly what one is looking for. We can, from the trial that fails (Location 3469) - Note: insights on trial and error and why it is not truly random - Some readers might not be too excited about the morality of shipwreck-hunting, and could consider that these treasures are national, not private, property. So let us change domain. The method used by Stemm applies to oil and gas exploration, particularly at the bottom of the unexplored oceans, with a difference: in a shipwreck, the upside is limited to the value of the treasure, whereas oil fields and other natural resources are nearly unlimited (or have a very high limit). (Location 3489) - Finally, recall my discussion of random drilling in Chapter 6 and how it seemed superior to more directed techniques. This optionality-driven method of search is not foolishly random. Thanks to optionality, it becomes tamed and harvested randomness. (Location 3493) - Consider two types of knowledge. The first type is not exactly “knowledge”; its ambiguous character prevents us from associating it with the strict definitions of knowledge. It is a way of doing things that we cannot really express in clear and direct language—it is sometimes called apophatic—but that we do nevertheless, and do well. The second type is more like what we call “knowledge”; it is what you acquire in school, can get grades for, can codify, what is explainable, academizable, rationalizable, formalizable, theoretizable, codifiable, Sovietizable, bureaucratizable, Harvardifiable, provable, etc. (Location 3506) - epiphenomena. What are these illusions? When you spend time on the bridge of a ship or in the coxswain’s station with a large compass in front, you can easily develop the impression that the compass is directing the ship rather than merely reflecting its direction. (Location 3563) - am writing these lines in an appropriate place to think about the arrow of knowledge: Abu Dhabi, a city that sprang out of the desert, as if watered by oil. It makes me queasy to see the building of these huge universities, funded by the oil revenues of governments, under the postulation that oil reserves can be turned into knowledge by hiring professors from prestigious universities and putting their kids through school (or, as is the case, waiting for their kids to feel the desire to go to school, as many students in Abu Dhabi are from Bulgaria, Serbia, or Macedonia getting a free education). Even better, they can, with a single check, import an entire school from overseas, such as the Sorbonne and New York University (among many more). So, in a few years, members of this society will be reaping the benefits of a great technological improvement. (Location 3640) - Likewise, in ancient times, learning was for learning’s sake, to make someone a good person, worth talking to, not to increase the stock of gold in the city’s heavily guarded coffers. (Location 3710) - To him, economics is like a fable—a fable writer is there to stimulate ideas, indirectly inspire practice perhaps, but certainly not to direct or determine practice. Theory should stay independent from practice and vice versa—and we should not extract academic economists from their campuses and put them in positions of decision making. Economics is not a science and should not be there to advise policy. (Location 3806) - In his intellectual memoirs, Rubinstein recounts how he tried to get a Levantine vendor in the souk to apply ideas from game theory to his bargaining in place of ancestral mechanisms. The suggested method failed to produce a price acceptable to both parties. Then the fellow told him: “For generations, we have bargained in our way and you come and try to change it?” Rubinstein concluded: “I parted from him shamefaced.” All we need is another two people like Rubinstein in that profession and things will be better on planet Earth. (Location 3809) - The point is hard to understand from the vantage point of intellectuals. As Yogi Berra said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; in practice there is.” (Location 3831) - evolutionary epistemology. But let me change Popper’s idea ever so slightly (actually quite a bit): my take is that this evolution is not a competition between ideas, but between humans and systems based on such ideas. An idea does not survive because it is better than the competition, but rather because the person who holds it has survived! (Location 3858) - Accordingly, wisdom you learn from your grandmother should be vastly superior (empirically, hence scientifically) to what you get from a class in business school (and, of course, considerably cheaper). My sadness is that we have been moving farther and farther away from grandmothers. (Location 3860) - I have seen evidence—as an eyewitness—of results that owe nothing to academizing science, rather evolutionary tinkering that was dressed up and claimed to have come from academia. Click here for a larger image of this table. (Location 3896) - Note: concepts produced by trial and error - already had a hint, as I had worked as a pit trader in Chicago and had observed veteran traders who refused to touch mathematical formulas, using simple heuristics and saying “real men don’t use sheets,” the “sheets” being the printouts of output from the complex formulas that came out of computers. (Location 3926) - And their sophistication preceded the formula by at least a century. It was of course picked up through natural selection, survivorship, apprenticeship to experienced practitioners, and one’s own experience. (Location 3933) - Note: this is my motto - Scranton showed that we have been building and using jet engines in a completely trial-and-error experiential manner, without anyone truly understanding the theory. Builders needed the original engineers who knew how to twist things to make the engine work. (Location 3959) - Scranton was polite and focused on situations in which innovation is messy, “distinguished from more familiar analytic and synthetic innovation approaches,” as if the latter were the norm, which it is obviously not. (Location 3962) - But builders could figure out the resistance of materials without the equations we have today—buildings that are, for the most part, still standing. The thirteenth-century French architect Villard de Honnecourt documents with his series of drawings and notebooks in Picard (the language of the Picardie region in France) how cathedrals were built: experimental heuristics, small tricks and rules, later tabulated by Philibert de l’Orme in his architectural treatises. For instance, a triangle was visualized as the head of a horse. Experimentation can make people much more careful than theories. (Location 3979) - Cooking seems to be the perfect business that depends on optionality. You add an ingredient and have the option of keeping the result if it is in agreement with Fat Tony’s taste buds, or fuhgetaboudit if it’s not. We also have wiki-style collaborative experimentation leading to a certain body of recipes. These recipes are derived entirely without conjectures about the chemistry of taste buds, with no role for any “epistemic base” to generate theories out of theories. Nobody is fooled so far by the process. As Dan Ariely once observed, we cannot reverse engineer the taste of food from looking at the nutritional label. And we can observe ancestral heuristics at work: generations of collective tinkering resulting in the evolution of recipes. These food recipes are embedded in cultures. Cooking schools are entirely apprenticeship based. (Location 4002) - Thomas Bayes (as in Bayesian probability) and Thomas Malthus (Malthusian overpopulation) are the most famous. (Location 4054) - Note: malthusian overpopulation - Let me get poetic for a moment. Self-directed scholarship has an aesthetic dimension. For a long time I had on the wall of my study the following quote by Jacques Le Goff, the great French medievalist, who believes that the Renaissance came out of independent humanists, not professional scholars. He examined the striking contrast in period paintings, drawings, and renditions that compare medieval university members and humanists: One is a professor surrounded and besieged by huddled students. The other is a solitary scholar, sitting in the tranquility and privacy of his chambers, at ease in the spacious and comfy room where his thoughts can move freely. Here we encounter the tumult of schools, the dust of classrooms, the indifference to beauty in collective workplaces, There, it is all order and beauty, Luxe, calme et volupté (Location 4064) - Consider blue sky research, whereby research grants and funding are given to people, not projects, and spread in small amounts across many researchers. The sociologist of science Steve Shapin, who spent time in California observing venture capitalists, reports that investors tend to back entrepreneurs, not ideas. (Location 4107) - the winner will have an explosive payoff, uncapped, the right approach requires a certain style of blind funding. It means the right policy would be what is called “one divided by n” or “1/N” style, spreading attempts in as large a number of trials (Location 4118) - if you face n options, invest in all of them in equal amounts.5 Small amounts per trial, lots of trials, broader than you want. Why? Because in Extremistan, it is more important to be in something in a small amount than to miss it. As one venture capitalist told me: “The payoff can be so large that you can’t afford not to be in everything.” (Location 4120) - “Over a twenty-year period of screening more than 144,000 plant extracts, representing about 15,000 species, not a single plant-based anticancer drug reached approved status. This failure stands in stark contrast to the discovery in the late 1950s of a major group of plant-derived cancer drugs, the Vinca Alcaloids—a discovery that came about by chance, not through directed research.” (Location 4128) - We have not digested the fact that cures for cancer had been coming from other branches of research. You search for noncancer drugs (or noncancer nondrugs) and find something you were not looking for (and vice versa). But the interesting constant is that when a result is initially discovered by an academic researcher, he is likely to disregard the consequences because it is not what he wanted to find—an academic has a script to follow. (Location 4134) - I realized that the notable exceptions, that is, drugs that were discovered in a teleological manner, are too few—mostly AZT, AIDS drugs. Designer drugs have a main property—they are designed (and are therefore teleological). But it does not look as if we are capable of designing a drug while taking into account the potential side effects. Hence a problem for the future of designer drugs. The more drugs there are on the market, the more interactions with one another—so we end up with a swelling number of possible interactions with every new drug introduced. If there are twenty unrelated drugs, the twenty-first would need to consider twenty interactions, no big deal. But if there are a thousand, we would need to predict a little less than a thousand. And there are tens of thousands of drugs available today. (Location 4156) - In the eyes of Algazel, a skeptic fideist (i.e., a skeptic with religious faith), knowledge was not in the hands of humans, but in those of God, while Adam Smith calls it the law of the market and some modern theorist presents it as self-organization. If the reader wonders why fideism is epistemologically equivalent to pure skepticism about human knowledge and embracing the hidden logics of things, just replace God with nature, fate, the Invisible, Opaque, and Inaccessible, and you mostly get the same result. The logic of things stands outside of us (in the hands of God or natural or spontaneous forces); and given that nobody these days is in direct communication with God, even in Texas, there is little difference between God and opacity. Not a single individual has a clue about the general process, and that is central. (Location 4174) - Note: skeptic fideism - The author Matt Ridley produces a more potent argument thanks to his background in biology. The difference between humans and animals lies in the ability to collaborate, engage in business, let ideas, pardon the expression, copulate. Collaboration has explosive upside, what is mathematically called a superadditive function, i.e., one plus one equals more than two, and one plus one plus one equals much, much more than three. That is pure nonlinearity with explosive benefits—we will get into details on how it benefits from the philosopher’s stone. Crucially, this is an argument for unpredictability and Black Swan effects: since you cannot forecast collaborations and cannot direct them, you cannot see where the world is going. All you can do is create an environment that facilitates these collaborations, and lay the foundation for prosperity. And, no, you cannot centralize innovations, we tried that in Russia. (Location 4180) - take the following. Coca-Cola began as a pharmaceutical product. Tiffany & Co., the fancy jewelry store company, started life as a stationery store. The last two examples are close, perhaps, but consider next: Raytheon, which made the first missile guidance system, was a refrigerator maker (one of the founders was no other than Vannevar Bush, who conceived the teleological linear model of science we saw earlier; go figure). Now, worse: Nokia, who used to be the top mobile phone maker, began as a paper mill (at some stage they were into rubber shoes). DuPont, now famous for Teflon nonstick cooking pans, Corian countertops, and the durable fabric Kevlar, actually started out as an explosives company. Avon, the cosmetics company, started out in door-to-door book sales. And, the strangest of all, Oneida Silversmiths was a community religious cult but for regulatory reasons they needed to use as cover a joint stock company. (Location 4204) - Note: debunk corporate planning fallacy - organized quacks. My hope is for that to change. Now, I agree that most nonacademically vetted medical practitioners were scoundrels, mountebanks, quacks, and often even worse than these. But let’s hold off jumping to the wrong conclusions. Formalists, to protect their turf, have always played on the logical fallacy that if quacks are found among nonacademics, nonacademics are all quacks. They keep doing it: the statement all that is nonrigorous is nonacademic (assuming (Location 4290) - Birgit Ulmer demonstrating that children’s ability to count degrades right after they are taught arithmetic. When you ask children how many intervals there are between fifteen poles, those who don’t know arithmetic figure out that there are fourteen of them. Those who studied arithmetic get confused and often make the mistake that there are fifteen. (Location 4331) - Provided we have the right type of rigor, we need randomness, mess, adventures, uncertainty, self-discovery, near-traumatic episodes, all these things that make life worth living, compared to the structured, fake, and ineffective life of an empty-suit CEO with a preset schedule and an alarm clock. Even their leisure is subjected to a clock, squash between four and five, as their life is sandwiched between appointments. It is as if the mission of modernity was to squeeze every drop of variability and randomness out of life—with (as we saw in Chapter 5) the ironic result of making the world a lot more unpredictable, as if the goddesses (Location 4342) - Actually my father kept hinting to me the problem of getting good grades himself: the person who was at the exact bottom of his class (and ironically, the father of a classmate at Wharton) turned out to be a self-made merchant, by far the most successful person in his class (he had a huge yacht with his initials prominently displayed on it); another one made a killing buying wood in Africa, retired before forty, then became an amateur historian (mostly in ancient Mediterranean history) and entered politics. In a way my father did not seem to value education, rather culture or money—and he prompted me to go for these two (Location 4377) - Again, I wasn’t exactly an autodidact, since I did get degrees; I was rather a barbell autodidact as I studied the exact minimum necessary to pass any exam, overshooting accidentally once in a while, and only getting in trouble a few times by undershooting. (Location 4397) - But I read voraciously, wholesale, (Location 4398) - I could take advantage of what people later pathologized as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) by using natural stimulation as a main driver to scholarship. (Location 4400) - There is such a thing as nonnerdy applied mathematics: find a problem first, and figure out the math that works for it (just as one acquires language), rather than study in a vacuum through theorems and artificial examples, then change reality to make it look like these examples. (Location 4440) - To this day I still have the instinct that the treasure, what one needs to know for a profession, is necessarily what lies outside the corpus, as far away from the center as possible. But there is something central in following one’s own direction in the selection of readings: what I was given to study in school I have forgotten; what I decided to read on my own, I still remember. (Location 4444) - which he was eventually put to death, when the eponymous (Location 4465) - Socrates’ technique was to make his interlocutor, who started with a thesis, agree to a series of statements, then proceed to show him how the statements he agreed to are inconsistent with the original thesis, thus establishing that he has no clue as to what he was taking about. Socrates used it mostly to show people how lacking in clarity they were in their thoughts, how little they knew about the concepts they used routinely—and the need for philosophy to elucidate these concepts. (Location 4471) - FAT TONY: “My dear Socrates … you know why they are putting you to death? It is because you make people feel stupid for blindly following habits, instincts, and traditions. You may be occasionally right. But you may confuse them about things they’ve been doing just fine without getting in trouble. You are destroying people’s illusions about themselves. You are taking the joy of ignorance out of the things we don’t understand. And you have no answer; you have no answer to offer them.” (Location 4526) - “What is not intelligible to me is not necessarily unintelligent” is perhaps the most potent sentence in all of Nietzsche’s century—and we used a version of it in the prologue, in the very definition of the fragilista who mistakes what he does not understand for nonsense. (Location 4554) - In his attack on Averroes, he expressed the famous idea that logic excludes—by definition—nuances, and since truth resides exclusively in the nuances, it is “a useless instrument for finding Truth in the moral and political sciences.” (Location 4587) - Finally, John Gray, the contemporary political philosopher and essayist who stands against human hubris and has been fighting the prevailing ideas that the Enlightenment is a panacea—treating a certain category of thinkers as Enlightenment fundamentalists. Gray showed repeatedly how what we call scientific progress can be just a mirage. When he, myself, and the essayist Bryan Appleyard got together for lunch I was mentally prepared to discuss ideas, and advocate my own. I was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be the best lunch I ever had in my entire life. There was this smoothness of knowing that the (Location 4622) - to write books, not emails, and not to give lectures dancing on a stage; that he has other things to do, like read in bed in the morning, write at a desk in front of a window, take long walks (slowly), drink espressos (mornings), chamomile tea (afternoons), Lebanese wine (evenings), and Muscat wines (after dinner), take more long walks (slowly), argue with friends and family members (but never in the morning), (Location 4734) - When I managed to retake control of my schedule and my brain, recovered from the injuries deep into my soul, learned to use email filters and autodelete functions, and restarted my life, Lady Fortuna brought two ideas to me, making me feel stupid—for I realized I had had them inside me all along. (Location 4739) - Jumping from a height of thirty feet (ten meters) brings more than ten times the harm of jumping from a height of three feet (one meter)—actually, thirty feet seems to be the cutoff point for death from free fall. (Location 4785)