Sunday, June 01, 2008

Black Swans in Newport Beach

In The Sunday Times - I meet Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the Black Swan man and the reason I am trying this low carbohydrate diet, and I wander round London studying art as leisure.


  1. A fascinating article, for which many thanks. So you've discovered Art De Vany, among other things? I took up this diet two years ago and am now down to what I weighed at 21 but the important thing is I feel better. However, I don't follow it too closely now. It's too extreme - some carbs like wild or old-variety grains or pulses are perfectly natural, I think - and too dependent on meat. Eating lots of meat probably isn't very good for you and is ethically dubious in the world today, imho. Next we'll have you out on a motorcycle.

    Not sure about Mr Taleb. This sounds too much like a mixture of Buddhist ideas, contrarianism, American predilections (avoid "losers", whatever that means, at all costs) and being smart for the sake of it. Having an opinion on everything is exhausting to maintain, and even more exhausting for everyone else. Add that to a charismatic personality and you have a very dangerous combination.

  2. Excellent article, Bryan.

    This quote lends credence to Brit's theory that nobody actually believes in the tenets of their religion:

    “Scientists don’t know what they are talking about when they talk about religion. Religion has nothing to do with belief, and I don’t believe it has any negative impact on people’s lives outside of intolerance. Why do I go to church? It’s like asking, why did you marry that woman? You make up reasons, but it’s probably just smell. I love the smell of candles. It’s an aesthetic thing.”

    And at the end of the article he basically confirms the atheist dictum that noone is in charge:

    Above all, accept randomness. Accept that the world is opaque, majestically unknown and unknowable. From its depths emerge the black swans that can destroy us or make us free. Right now they’re killing us, so remember to shave. But we can tinker our way out of it. It’s what we do best. Listen to Taleb, an ancient figure, one of the great Mediterranean minds, when he says: “You find peace by coming to terms with what you don’t know.”

    BTW, he's right about carbs. I lost 35 lbs last year by cutting out carbs. We are hunters, not grazers.

  3. Who is this Noone who's in charge? High Noone? Sounds like a cowboy.

  4. Susan b. said: "Who is this Noone who's in charge? High Noone? Sounds like a cowboy."

    Alas, I think he means Pete Noone of Herman's Hermits. Their takeover has been so stealthy no one has noticed - yet. Mr Taleb is but a noonatic spokesman, an apologist for "I'm Henry VIII I Am" and "I'm into Something Good".

    In truth I've thought of little else today but Nassim Nicholas Taleb's ideas so I was probably very unfair in my first reaction. And if you drop the idea of God as a Self, I don't see why God and "no one is in charge" should be incompatible.

  5. His definition of a loser could be prescribed to the vast majority in Britain.

  6. And if you drop the idea of God as a Self, I don't see why God and "no one is in charge" should be incompatible.

    It just makes God incompatible with monotheism.