Nassim Nicholas Taleb · 366 pages
Rating: (63.1K votes)
“The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore, professore dottore Eco, what a library you have ! How many of these books have you read?” and the others - a very small minority - who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you don’t know as your financial means, mortgage rates and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menancingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”
“It has been more profitable for us to bind together in the wrong direction than to be alone in the right one. Those who have followed the assertive idiot rather than the introspective wise person have passed us some of their genes. This is apparent from a social pathology: psychopaths rally followers.”
“Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking.”
“When you develop your opinions on the basis of weak evidence, you will have difficulty interpreting subsequent information that contradicts these opinions, even if this new information is obviously more accurate.”
“Remember that you are a Black Swan.”
“It is my great hope someday, to see science and decision makers rediscover what the ancients have always known. Namely that our highest currency is respect.”
“If you hear a "prominent" economist using the word 'equilibrium,' or 'normal distribution,' do not argue with him; just ignore him, or try to put a rat down his shirt.”
“We tend to use knowledge as therapy.”
“Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market alow you to put there.”
“The problem with experts is that they do not know what they do not know”
“The inability to predict outliers implies the inability to predict the course of history”
“I will repeat the following until I am hoarse: it is contagion that determines the fate of a theory in social science, not its validity.”
“Categorizing is necessary for humans, but it becomes pathological when the category is seen as definitive, preventing people from considering the fuzziness of boundaries,”
“Ideas come and go, stories stay.”
“If you survive until tomorrow, it could mean that either a) you are more likely to be immortal or b) that you are closer to death.”
“Believe me, it is tough to deal with the social consequences of the appearance of continuous failure. We are social animals; hell is other people.”
“The strategy for the discoverers and entrepreneurs is to rely less on top-down planning and focus on maximum tinkering and recognizing opportunities when they present themselves. So I disagree with the followers of Marx and those of Adam Smith: the reason free markets work is because they allow people to be lucky, thanks to aggressive trial and error, not by giving rewards or “incentives” for skill. The strategy is, then, to tinker as much as possible and try to collect as many Black Swan opportunities as you can.”
“Prediction, not narration, is the real test of our understanding of the world.”
“I propose that if you want a simple step to a higher form of life, as distant from the animal as you can get, then you may have to denarrate, that is, shut down the television set, minimize time spent reading newspapers, ignore the blogs. Train your reasoning abilities to control your decisions; nudge System 1 (the heuristic or experiential system) out of the important ones. Train yourself to spot the difference between the sensational and the empirical. This insulation from the toxicity of the world will have an additional benefit: it will improve your well-being.”
“If you want to get an idea of a friend's temperament, ethics, and personal elegance, you need to look at him under the tests of severe circumstances, not under the regular rosy glow of daily life.”
“Consider a turkey that is fed every day. Every single feeding will firm up the bird’s belief that it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race “looking out for its best interests,” as a politician would say. On the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, something unexpected will happen to the turkey. It will incur a revision of belief.*”
“. . . the world in which we live has an increasing number of feedback loops, causing events to be the cause of more events (say, people buy a book because other people bought it), thus generating snowballs and arbitrary and unpredictable planet-wide winner-take-all effects.”
“You need a story to displace a story.”
“This idea that in order to make a decision you need to focus on the consequences (which you can know) rather than the probability (which you can’t know) is the central idea of uncertainty.”
“Humans will believe anything you say provided you do not exhibit the smallest shadow of diffidence; like animals, they can detect the smallest crack in your confidence before you express it. The trick is to be as smooth as possible in personal manners. It is much easier to signal self-confidence if you are exceedingly polite and friendly; you can control people without having to offend their sensitivity.”
“I don’t run for trains.” Snub your destiny. I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule. This may seem a very small piece of advice, but it registered. In refusing to run to catch trains, I have felt the true value of elegance and aesthetics in behavior, a sense of being in control of my time, my schedule, and my life. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking. You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside of it, if you do so by choice.”
“I use the example as computed by the mathematician Michael Berry. If you know a set of basic parameters concerning the ball at rest, can compute the resistance of the table (quite elementary), and can gauge the strength of the impact, then it is rather easy to predict what would happen at the first hit. The second impact becomes more complicated, but possible; you need to be more careful about your knowledge of the initial states, and more precision is called for. The problem is that to correctly predict the ninth impact, you need to take into account the gravitational pull of someone standing next to the table (modestly, Berry's computations use a weight of less than 150 pounds). And to compute the fifty-sixth impact, every single elementary particle of the universe needs to be present in your assumptions!”
“You can afford to be compassionate, lax, and courteous if, once in a while, when it is least expected of you, but completely justified, you sue someone, or savage an enemy, just to show that you can walk the walk.”
“We are quick to forget that just being alive is an extraordinary piece of good luck, a remote event, a chance occurrence of monstrous proportions.”
“You happened to me," she told him, her voice more fatigued than embittered. "You came out of a grubby sixth-rate farm on a tenth-rate planet, and destroyed my life." - Mara Jade”
“A good plan isn't one where someone wins, it's where nobody thinks they've lost.”
“You idiot!" She spat, flattening her ears. "What are you doing in my territory?"
"Drowning?" Replied Graystripe.
"Can't you do that in your own territory?"
"Ah, but who would rescue me there?”
“She had never seen anyone like him before in her life. The clothes he wore, the sound of his voice, the expression in his eys, all made her feel that she had had z moomentary glimpse into another world - and she longed passionately to see it again, if only for a brief while.”
“if you think that a man who is any good at all should take into account the risk of life or death; he should look to this only in his action, whether what he does is right or wrong, whether he is acting life a good or a bad man.”
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