53 year-old Lebanese public intellectual who lived through the civil war in his country that could easily have killed him. He comes from a prestigious Orthodox Christian family, studied Mathematics and Management in France and became a "quant" - one of the mathematically gifted traders/analysts that the investment banks snapped up during the 1980s. He is said to have made a packet in the financial crashes that have spanned his career - first the stock-market crash of 1987 and finally the banking crash of 2008. He is distinguished professor of risk engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University but does no regular teaching and all his research is independently financed, possibly by himself. He is a prolific writer and a "circuit" public intellectual who claims on his website that he does " NOT wish to have a public life or public intellectual life" except for book promotions. He is a prickly character who divides opinion
Fooled by randomness, Taleb takes a swipe at all those - including himself - who've done well in the markets and want to claim superior skill, rather than plain luck, for it. He wants to take down a peg or two all those who re-write history to their own glory. The book, written before the crash, gave Taleb a niche and loyal following and infuriated those who felt he was spitting in the communal soup: rubbishing the methods and markets that had made him rich.
The Black Swan, Published just before the banking crisis, the book was about unpredictable events - "unknown unknowns" - and how to cope with them. Black swans are a reality in Australia. But before the discovery of Australia, a gambler would have felt on safe ground betting that there would never be a black swan. And yet the gambler would have been wrong. World history has been regularly disrupted by "black swan events", and no one should ever say never. The book was a serious bestseller and his third book, "Anti-fragility", earned hism a $4m advance.
An old friend finds me on Linked In and offers me a wonderful opportunity
I had not filled out my LinkedIn profile
"Social Media is part of my anti-fragility strategy and is making career structures anti-fragile". "Facebook convexifies my opportunity space"
Think of a process, for example, scientific research
Double what goes in, ie double the number of scientists
If more than double comes out, it is convex, more than double ought to come out, because knowledge builds on knowledge
"somebody who causes fragility because he thinks he understands what's going on", eg, Alan Greenspan, as he stoked the credit bubble
The medical processes that do harm while purporting to do good, like blood-letting in medieval medicine
Rules derived from trial and error as opposed to those derived from theory, "red sky at night, shepherd's delight" versus the climate models that predict long term global weather patterns