Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • Born:
  • Nationality: Lebanese, American
  • Profession: Scientist









Quote Topics Cited
… capitalism is about rewards and punishments, not just rewards. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Capitalism
Don’t ever ask a barber if you need a haircut. Management & Managing Government
Economists are evaluated on how intelligent they sound, not on a scientific measure of their knowledge of reality Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
For the robust, an error is information. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Forecasting by bureaucrats tends to be used for anxiety relief rather than for adequate policy making. Bureaucracy
History is opaque. You see what comes out, not the script that produces events, ... The generator of historical events is different from the events themselves, much as the minds of the gods cannot be read just by witnessing their deeds. History
I have a negative approach to democracy. I think it should be primarily a mechanism by which people can remove a bad leader. Democracies & Republics
If there had been Twitter at the time of the French Revolution, they would have claimed that the French Revolution was caused by twitter. History
In science you need to understand the world; in business you need others to misunderstand it. Business, Commerce & Finance
It does not matter how frequently something succeeds if failure is too costly to bear. Policy & Policy Making
Much of the research into humans' risk-avoidance machinery shows that it is antiquated and unfit for the modern world; it is made to counter repeatable attacks and learn from specifics. If someone narrowly escapes being eaten by a tiger in a certain cave, then he learns to avoid that cave. Human Nature
Only in recent history has “working hard” signaled pride rather than shame for lack of talent, finesse and, mostly, sprezzatura. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to “restore confidence.” Cascading rumors are a product of complex systems. Governments cannot stop the rumors. Simply, we need to be in a position to shrug off rumors, be robust in the face of them. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs
Rank beliefs not according to their plausibility but by the harm they may cause. Management & Managing Government
Restaurants get you in with food to sell you liquor; religions get you in with belief to sell you rules. Religion & God
The fool generalizes the particular; the nerd particularizes the general; ... the wise does neither. Human Nature
The sucker’s trap is when you focus on what you know and what others don’t know, rather than the reverse. Human Nature
To be completely cured of newspapers, spend a year reading the previous week’s newspapers. Media, Journalism & The Press
We favor the visible, the embedded, the personal, the narrated, and the tangible; we scorn the abstract. Human Nature
We should reward people, not ridicule them, for thinking the impossible. Miscellaneous
When we want to do something while unconsciously certain to fail, we seek advice so we can blame someone else for the failure. Policy & Policy Making
A country's assets reside in the tinkerers, the hobbyists, and the risk-takers.
A good maxim allows you to have the last word without even starting a conversation.
Alan Greenspan is unskilled; you don't take the unskilled seriously.
All of technology, really, is about maximizing free options. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Bailing out every bank that fails makes the system riskier, not safer.
Banking is a very treacherous business because you don't realize it is risky until it is too late. It is like calm waters that deliver huge storms. Business, Commerce & Finance
Being an economist is the least ethical profession, closer to charlatanism than any science. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
Capitalism has forced everyone to overoptimize in order to compete.
Capitalism is about adventurers who get harmed by their mistakes, not people who harm others with their mistakes.
Corporations take the humanity out of trade - they take the happiness out and replace it with something that is ugly. Happiness & Unhappiness
Debt is a mistake between lender and borrower, and both should suffer.
Deficits are like putting dynamite in the hands of children. They can get out of control very quickly.
Democracies can't handle austerity measures very well.
Economics make homeopath and alternative healers look empirical and scientific.
Failure saves lives. In the airline industry, every time a plane crashes the probability of the next crash is lowered by that. The Titanic saved lives because we're building bigger and bigger ships. So these people died, but we have effectively improved the safety of the system, and nothing failed in vain. Time ;Failure
For many people, commuting is the worst part of the day, and policies that can make commuting shorter and more convenient would be a straightforward way to reduce minor but widespread suffering.
Fragility is the quality of things that are vulnerable to volatility.
Globalization has created this interlocking fragility. At no time in the history of the universe has the cancellation of a Christmas order in New York meant layoffs in China. Time ;History
Governments that try to shoot for a surplus hardly ever reach it.
I am happy everywhere except in places where I see glitz and rich farts. I am happiest in Brooklyn, where the concentration of rich farts is minimal.
I don't go to the doctor except when I'm very ill, and when I go to India, I drink a drop of local water.
I don't know anyone on Wall Street who goes to work every day thinking of anything but how to increase their bonus. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I don't read the papers; I stopped reading the papers. I read the papers only during periods of crisis, and I think papers are too long on a regular day and too short days when we have a crisis.
I drive a hybrid, moving into an electric car. I only drink tap water, never consume food that's travelled. Nutrition, Food, Starvation, Farming & Agriculture
I hated school because I liked to daydream and the system tried to stop me from that.
I have never had personal debt and never will.
I lift heavy weights and sprint, but I am so bad at it that I develop severe injuries.
I no longer care about the financial system. I gave them my roadmap. OK? Thanks, bye. I've no idea what's going on. I'm disconnected. I'm totally disengaged.
I select a very small number of things to be sceptical about, such as markets, and on these I am hypersceptic. But I want to be fooled by randomness in art. I want the ceremonial of religion; we are made for it. Religion & God ;Arts, Culture, Entertainment & Lifestyle
If I ask you to write down the last 4 digits of your social security number, and then take you out to lunch and ask you how many dentists there are in Manhattan, there's going to be a high correlation between those two numbers. What happens is that the number psychologically makes you feel confident.
If you are an Arabic-speaking, Greek-Orthodox going to a French school it makes you deeply sceptical if you have to listen to three different accounts of the Crusades - one from the Muslim side, one from the Greek side and one from the Catholic side.
If you are in banking and lending, surprise outcomes are likely to be negative for you.
If you take risks and face your fate with dignity, there is nothing you can do that makes you small; if you don't take risks, there is nothing you can do that makes you grand, nothing.
I'm a capitalist but one who is smallist and localist, and who favours businesses where owners are still in charge.
I'm a private intellectual, not a public one.
I'm in favour of religion as a tamer of arrogance. For a Greek Orthodox, the idea of God as creator outside the human is not God in God's terms. My God isn't the God of George Bush. Religion & God
In social policy, when we provide a safety net, it should be designed to help people take more entrepreneurial risks, not to turn them into dependents. This doesn't mean that we should be callous to the underprivileged.
In the United States, large corporations control some members of Congress. All this does is delay the corporation's funeral at our expense.
Individuals should think about the worst-case scenarios and plan for them. The world will be crazier than you think it will be. Put money away, and then you can live with much more freedom. Freedom & Liberty ;Money, Coins & Minting
Inequalities of wealth lead to a dispersion in wealth for all.
It might be useful to be able to predict war. But tension does not necessarily lead to war, but often to peace and to denouement. War & Peace
I've been telling anyone willing to listen that banks have a tendency to sit on time bombs while convincing themselves that they are conservative and nonvolatile. Time
Most people are sceptical about the wrong things and gullible about the wrong things.
Most so-called writers keep writing and writing with the hope, some day, to find something to say. Hope
Nature builds things that are antifragile. In the case of evolution, nature uses disorder to grow stronger. Occasional starvation or going to the gym also makes you stronger, because you subject your body to stressors and gain from them. Nature
Never take advice from anyone in a tie. They'll bankrupt you. Don't ask a general for advice on war, and don't ask a broker for advice on money. Money, Coins & Minting ;War & Peace
Never think that lack of variability is stability. Don't confuse lack of volatility with stability, ever.
Nobody reads the disclosures that roll down your computer screen. You click 'I agree' but you don't know what you're agreeing to.
Paul Krugman is a danger to society! Society
People employed in financial institutions are rarely interesting and even more rarely likable.
People have the problem of denial. This is one of the things I learned in Lebanon. Everybody who left Beirut when the war started, including my parents, said, 'Oh, its temporary.' It lasted 17 years! People tend to underestimate the gravity of these situations. That's how they work. War & Peace ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Poverty is clearly one source of emotional suffering, but there are others, like loneliness.
Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg didn't finish college. Too much emphasis is placed on formal education - I told my children not to worry about their grades but to enjoy learning. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Success is about honour, feeling morally calibrated, absence of shame, not what some newspaper defines from an external metric. Success
The American people will eventually get hurt by this accumulated deficit. That's the problem. We have too much deficit. We have to find a solution.
The best philosophers were not academics, but had another job, so their philosophy was not corrupted by careerism.
The grandchildren should not bear the debts of the grandparents.
The Internet allows the small guy a global marketplace. But technology is harmful in the sense that we get too much information from it. Because of the web we get 10 times the amount of noise we ever got, which makes harmful fallacies far more likely. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The key to wealth is that it doesn't matter. Once you've had it, you don't think anything of it; you can wear cheap watches.
The mortgage crisis is a clear instance of consumers who needed protection. There was predatory lending to people who didn't know what they were doing.
The next time you experience a blackout, take some solace by looking at the sky. You will not recognize it. Time
The people I go after are the false experts, those who do not accept the limits of their knowledge. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
The track record of economists in predicting events is monstrously bad. It is beyond simplification; it is like medieval medicine.
The world we live in is vastly different from the world we think we live in.
There are two types of people: those who try to win and those who try to win arguments. They are never the same.
We are victims of the post-Enlightenment view that the world functions like a sophisticated machine, to be understood like a textbook engineering problem and run by wonks. In other words, like a home appliance, not like the human body.
We have this culture of financialization. People think they need to make money with their savings rather with their own business. So you end up with dentists who are more traders than dentists. A dentist should drill teeth and use whatever he does in the stock market for entertainment. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Money, Coins & Minting
We humans lack imagination, to the point of not even knowing what tomorrow's important things will look like.
We know from chaos theory that even if you had a perfect model of the world, you'd need infinite precision in order to predict future events. With sociopolitical or economic phenomena, we don't have anything like that. Future
We should ban banks from risk-taking because society is going to pay the price. Society
What America does best is produce the ability to accept failure. Failure
What we do today has nothing to do with capitalism or socialism. It is a crony type of system that transfers money to the coffers of bureaucrats. Money, Coins & Minting
What we need to do is break the financial community's grip on society. Society
When I trade, I don't have an agency problem; I have my neck on the line. When a bank or banker trades, it's not his neck on the line.
When you ask people, 'What's the opposite of fragile?,' they tend to say robust, resilient, adaptable, solid, strong. That's not it. The opposite of fragile is something that gains from disorder.
When you write, you don't have the social constraints of having people in front of you, so you talk about abstract matters.
Writing is sacred, other activities are profane, and I don't want them to corrupt my writing.
Years ago, I noticed one thing about economics, and that is that economists didn't get anything right.
You are rich if and only if money you refuse tastes better than money you accept. Money, Coins & Minting
You have family-owned businesses that have been around for 500 years. You cannot name a corporation that survives intact for even a few decades.
You know, children philosophize more than adults - and they are critical of adults.
You will get the most attention from those who hate you. No friend, no admirer and no partner will flatter you with as much curiosity.