Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Greek god. Philosopher. Adonis. The only person on earth who has earned the right to have an opinion about anything. All appropriate characterizations of one Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and the way at least three-quarters of all living homo sapiens have described NNT in their conversations with friends and in their diaries. And while his many admirers have surely studied him in great detail in the hopes of one day having the opportunity to unlock his heart or simply bask in his reflected glory for a moment or two, not everyone has a comprehensive list of the things that rev Taleb’s engine and, more importantly, that tick him off. Luckily, a recent profile by Chronicle writer Tom Bartlett has produced a near-complete guide to the likes and dislikes of Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Read it, print it out, carry it in your pocket– but really, consider taking the time to commit it to memory. Your chance may only come along once and you don’t want to fuck it up by fumbling around your notes because you can’t remember what his thoughts are on “bourgeois bohemian bonus earners” or fruit. Read more »

Have you ever gazed upon classical Greek philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb and thought to yourself, “That man has a body from the gods. I could never hope to match him in brains, but what about brawn? If only I could obtain the details of his diet and fitness regimen”? Well, friends, today is your lucky day. Despite still being on his second tour of self-imposed quiet time, Taleb granted several interviews to publications reviewing his new book, “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder,” and, naturally, the topic of his physique came up, specifically the various ways he keeps it in such enviable shape. (He also touches on the exercises that led to him having a brain three times the size of the typical astrophysicist, though please note that these should be appreciated but not be attempted by average humans, who could hurt themselves quite badly.) Read more »

Several years back, in response to the news that Ben Bernanke would be reappointed Fed Chairman, Nassim Nicholas Taleb made an announcement that he would be retreating from society. “What I am seeing…is too much for me to bear,” Taleb wrote. “I am not blaming Bernanke (he doesn’t even know he doesn’t understand how things work); it is the Senators appointing him who are totally irresponsible…I need to withdraw as immediately as possible into the Platonic quiet of my library, work on my next book, find solace in science and philosophy, and mull the next step…I will only (briefly) emerge from my hiatus when the publishers force me to do so upon the publication of the paperback edition of The Black Swan. Bye, Nassim.” NNT reintroduced himself to the world at some point in 2010 or 2011 but now, apparently, he has once again decided to pick up his black swans and leave, as people getting in touch with him to star in their movie, blurb their book, or pick his large and intimidating brain recently learned. Read more »

In his latest iteration of “nobody knows nothing so let’s ban everything,” Taleb with one fell swoop wants to do away with the leveraged buyout, margin accounts and, with only a little interpretation, the market in general.

LBOs are “too close to Madoff” because “you rely on new investors to pay off the other ones,” Taleb said. “The stock market has some mild Ponzi characteristics. We have to make sure that innocent people are not harmed by this Ponzi-attribute.”

It seems pretty clear that the likes of Bloomberg are forever doomed to quote every snippet of Taleb’s random musings no matter how intoxicant laden they may be, so we’re almost tempted to give Taleb a pass on this one. Almost.
We’re not sure if Taleb here means that the actual buyout is where “new investors” are paying off old investors (in which case he should object to all buyouts of whatever financial structure) or if he has some obscure “Ponziesque” connection to debt-financed buyouts in particular. Either way, we think the case is clear: Taleb’s 15 minutes have been over for about six weeks.
Everyone is an idiot. We get it. Let’s move on.
The fact that you’ve been saying for years that the big one was coming doesn’t mean you predicted the big one there, big NNT. You predicted none of this other than, Nostradamus like, vaguely pointing out that crashes happen and one might “any day now” surprise us. We are not impressed. Your books make nice airplane reading on a long boring trip but once we get past “over-optimization” in network theory and “Gaussian distributions are limited,” (which we got in the first month of stats class, thanks) their utility dropped to “looks smart with a little dust on it while sitting in my bookshelf” levels. At least your fellow Dr. Doom has the good grace to chase young women and throw parties for our amusement. What do you do anymore?
And as for “We’re all Ponzi now,” or “We’re all Madoff now,” we get that meme too. Even we decided to drop it months ago. Again, let’s move on.
We’re going to just say it: Taleb is Madoff-like. He’s everywhere, his every move is reported on and he annoys everyone. Can someone just keep him away from mics and cameras for awhile? ‘kthanksbye.
Taleb Calls Private Equity, Stock Market Ponzi-Like [Bloomberg]