The Serendipitous Prophet of Boom and Doom

There’s an excellent author profile of Nassim Nicholas Taleb on The Sunday Times. I recommend checking it out. Thanks to Whence Bohemia? for the heads up!

According to Sunday Times, “Taleb is now the hottest thinker in the world.” I believe so too. Taleb is on my top list of t(h)inkers. I’m no good with numbers and complex statistics but Taleb’s kind of skeptical empiricism balances my propensity for integral idealism. I resonate with his attitude on serendipity and serenity.

“You find peace by coming to terms with what you don’t know.”

I also find his attitude on religion very interesting.

“Scientists don’t know what they are talking about when they talk about
religion. Religion has nothing to do with belief, and I don’t believe
it has any negative impact on people’s lives outside of intolerance.
Why do I go to church? It’s like asking, why did you marry that woman?
You make up reasons, but it’s probably just smell. I love the smell of
candles. It’s an aesthetic thing.”

I remember reading somewhere that Taleb is also working on (or is interested on writing) a book that tackles religion and belief. I’m looking forward to it. With a $4m book advance fee, his book ought to be promising. It would be cool to see a debate between Taleb and the New Atheists, specifically, Dawkins.

I now have a good idea of where Taleb stands on environmental and ecological issues.

“Don’t disturb complicated systems that have been around for a very
long time. We don’t understand their logic. Don’t pollute the planet. Leave
it the way we found it, regardless of scientific ‘evidence’.”

However, it’s still not clear to me where he stands on the climate change belief spectrum. But I suspect that his attitude on this issue is closer to Michael Crichton than Al Gore.

One of Taleb’s top life tips is to maximize serendipity by going to parties.

“Go to parties. You can’t even start to know what you may find on the
envelope of serendipity. If you suffer from agoraphobia, send colleagues.”

I don’t suffer from agoraphobia but I’m not a party person. I also don’t have colleagues to boss around. I like having a small social network of people in meatspace. But in cyberspace, the sky is the limit.   Good thing I have blogging to fall on which compensates for my introversion. But I understand that Taleb is right. Until the advent of fully-immersive telepresence technologies, there’s no substitute for human face to face conversations.

What I like about Taleb is that he is tenaciously confident with what he knows in his practice (e.g. mathematics, complex financial markets), his skeptical attitude towards grand sweeping theories, and his passion for philosophy and epistemology. I’m looking forward to him fleshing out his philosophical views in a future book.

In the meantime, thanks to Nassim Nicholas Taleb (or to his webmaster) for linking to my review of his book, The Black Swan. I’m getting a constant stream of visitors coming from www.fooledbyrandomness.com for the past few weeks now. Now that’s another classic case of serendipitous blogging.

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Comment (1)

  1. Dean wrote::

    I like that Taleb is also such a big fan of the free market economist Hayek, as well as Hayek’s buddy Karl Popper. The “don’t disturb complex systems that have been around for a long time” bit of advice goes well for the biosphere as much as the socio/economic and cultural patterns that have evolved.

    http://bianzhengnazi.gaia.com/blog/2007/10/scientism_the_fatal_conceit

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008 at 7:05 am #