Sunday, April 7, 2013

Some academic at Cambridge who sold 2,200 copies

From How Debt Ruins Systems, an interview of Nassim Nicholas Taleb by Nick Gillespie. Taleb has a new book out, Antifragile: Things that Gain with Disorder.
reason: But you’re not going to say that the market is always right, and that 50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong?

Taleb: No. My point is that someone who just arrived in a limo does not take lectures on finance from someone who just took the subway. That’s the idea. You can take ideas, maybe, but you don’t take instructions about how to write a book. So if you want to write a book, either take instructions from the Harry Potter lady or take instructions from Seneca, who survived 2,000 years. But definitely not from some academic at Cambridge who sold 2,200 copies.
What makes a system fragile? Taleb argues Centralization, Leverage (unsecured debt), and Unaccountability. I don't disagree. I might put it somewhat differently. What has driven the rise of the West in the past 500 years and what features are shared with the (antifragile) Confucian systems? Many elements but most of them being aspects of Agency (distributed decision-making and accountability), Transparency (access to high quality information and data), and Competition (striving and consequences).

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