Antifragile – an update

This morning Nassim Taleb took to Twitter to berate me for being mathematically stupid, ‘flustered’, and “not even wrong”. I suspect my fault is not so much making a mistake in the maths as having preferred his first two bestsellers to this one – I enjoyed reading his book but was a bit lukewarm. You can look at the Twitter discussion if you can be bothered (he’s @nntaleb, I’m @diane1859 on Twitter). A couple of his tweets below.

Meanwhile, you can also decide:

(a) How stupid I was in my original blog post – I haven’t changed it and there is an error (clue – an inversion, my excuse being that it was the result of writing in haste before going out that day);

(b) How mathematically skilful readers ought to be before they are allowed to read a book issued as a mass market paperback and then review it in a mildly positive way;

(c) Whether Mr Taleb’s tweeting makes you more or less inclined to buy and read .

@diane1859 Lesson 1) read books v. attentively w/a pencil 2) only comment within your expertise 3) expect to be treated by author same way
19/10/2013 14:40


Once again for nonmathematiciansnonbiologists like @diane1859 bloviating on the biological math in AF, a primer:
18/10/2013 22:46

15 thoughts on “Antifragile – an update

  1. Taleb’s “primer” shows that, while he may well be an extremely intelligent person, he is a rather poor teacher. A MOOC this is not – not even a mini-MOOC.

      • He isn’t patient with individuals who don’t take the time to think before they write reviews or make comments on his ideas. Why should he be patient with a person misrepresenting his ideas because they wrote hastily? Your review lacked rigor.

        • No, I’m sorry, reviews expressing personal reactions don’t have to have “rigor” – this is my blog, not an academic journal. Mr Taleb could have easily ignores it.

          • A gullible individual reading your ‘personal reactions’ may be deterred from reading the works you review despite the fact that it may be misinterpreted. This is why you are catching heat from Nassim Taleb. If your reviews aren’t well thought out, why should anyone care what you think? If you label yourself as an enlightened economist, shouldn’t you hold yourself to a high standard? The fact that you had to go out and that resulted in a hastily written review is simply put, very weak. You have over 6,000 twitter followers, so you audience isn’t meaningless either.

  2. I get the impression that the possibility that he did not express his ideas clearly enough would never occur to him. Such arrogance means I will not read his book (and certainly not buy it). When I read I want to learn and that requires that the author is skilled in communicating with others, not being an expert at talking down to them.

  3. Taleb is interesting but unbelievably sensitive to any review which doesn’t declare him a genius

  4. I greatly enjoyed & benefited from AF & NNT’s other 2 books of the general public (the book of aphorisms flopped with me). I greatly enjoy & benefit from this blog. NNT has made it clear that there is no such thing as bad publicity, & I suspect he appreciates the benefits of controversy. I take his criticisms of others as a bit of showmanship and try to separate those moments from the substantive message. And, if, like me, you’re not the subject of such wrath, it can prove mildly entertaining, although he has a tendency of being unduly repetitious.

  5. I found FBR innteresting but not that amazing having many years ago studied engineering. Now a hydraulic jump I find amazing. What most impressed me reading FBR was the extreme contempt NNT expressed for most of experts. It made the book near unreadable I thought to anyone not in the cult of NNT.I find the more I learn the more ignorant I realise I am. This seems not to be the case with NNT. I have not read AF but wonder whether, if it be the case, that he might have missed a trick by not creating two classes of fragile. Non-explosive for things that just break and explosive for those that break and destroy other things in the process. Now where would he place himself in this classification I wonder

    • No, I have no problem about being described (accurately) as a minor blogger. But it didn’t meet my minimum standard of civility for comments here. Feel free to try again politely – and preferably spelling my name correctly too.

  6. Nassim has plenty of reviews, he wrote that he has 5000. He wrote in Randomness about a strategy of playing game theory by randomly public scolding a reviewer to publicize that people should be careful and study before reading and commenting on new ideas.

  7. Taleb had some interesting observations in ‘Fooled by Randomness’ and was right in his criticism of some economists (I write as an economist). But Keynes, Ramsay and Knight discussed uncertainty and probability 80-90 years ago and I don’t think Taleb’s insights add much more to that. His biggest problem is that, after the success of FBR, each of his subsequent books has got longer and more egocentric as he tries to expound his philosophy. He needs a good editor, though given his reaction to even favourable comments, I can see why no one wants the job.

  8. @Robert, this makes no sense, sorry. Saying Nasim’s idea was already in Keynes and “I don’t think Taleb’s insights add much more to that.” is like saying that any mathematical paper’s idea was already in Poincare since they used calculus, nothing new Poincare used it, no insight everything since in nothing. This is what Taleb is saying that his mathematical work is precise and formal and in effect conflicts with Knight. So what you are saying about other works conflicts with what Taleb is saying.
    I am glad to visit and thank you for not delteing my work.

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