In a nutshell, Dance with Chance is all about knowing what you can and cannot predict and, therefore, what you can and cannot control.
Think about it. Every day human beings make decisions. Some are important: should you invest your life savings in the stock market? Others are trivial: should you take an umbrella today? But in both these cases you have no control. The stock market will go up or down, it will rain or it won’t”¦ and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The problem comes when people seek to gain control by making predictions. By consulting an investment expert or a weather forecast, they think they can control the value of their investments or avoid getting wet.
But this is just an illusion. An illusion that psychologists call “˜the illusion of control’.
In many areas of life – the stock market and the weather are just two examples – accurate prediction just isn’t possible. There is always uncertainty about the future in most areas of our lives. Throw in some emotions, such as greed, fear and hope, and human beings’ predictions get even less accurate. So what are we to do?
Fortunately, Dance with Chance comes up with plenty of positive suggestions. Most importantly, it uncovers a “˜paradox of control’ that’s the antidote to the “˜illusion of control’. By knowing when to give up control, we can actually gain more control over many aspects of our lives than we had in the first place.
From EconTalk.org (Includes full transcript).
Direct link to mp3 interview
Nassim Taleb talks about the financial crisis, how we misunderstand rare events, the fragility of the banking system, the moral hazard of government bailouts, the unprecedented nature of really, really bad events, the contribution of human psychology to misinterpreting probability and the dangers of hubris. The conversation closes with a discussion of religion and probability.
“Bicycle Day”, 19 April, was later commemorated by acid enthusiasts because it was the first conscious “trip” and it had had – just about – a happy ending. But the doors to perception are, for some truth-seekers, booby-trapped and dangerous. When LSD was co-opted by medical staff for recreational use, two decades after Hoffman’s bike ride, users learnt the hard way how impossible it was to control the wild ride once it had started.
At Oxford in the early 1970s, we were frankly intimidated by the drug’s reputation. We all wanted to try it, but were too chicken. The word in the quad was: if you had any secret hang-ups, mental instabilities, phobias, sexual inadequacies or social insecurities (the kind that surface in dreams,) you were wise of steer clear of acid. We knew when one of us was going to try it. “Tonight,” I’d hear during dinner in hall, “Roger’s tripping for the first time. But he’ll have Will and Ollie with him, so he’ll be OK.”
I’ve always remembered Roger’s first trip (so, I’ll bet, has he). We all knew he’d be fine because he was so perfect: cool, handsome, easy-going, a hit with the girls, a dead ringer, with his corkscrewy curls, for Marc Bolan of T. Rex. And he was rich; he owned a Morgan, which he casually parked in the back quad. We knew Roger would survive the experience and bang on about it, like he banged on about his Bang and Olufsen state-of-the-art hi-fi.http://tinyurl.com/4kc8fl
Mind Blowing interview with Robert Zubrin on CoastToCoastAm with George Noorey….really worth buying a copy of the audio! Zubrin points out that the move of Oil prices from $10 to $120 per barrel of oil is 1200% ! , Dudes! This is a Bush/Cheney/Republican TAX HIKE! Duh! This is the third person in the media to mention that they thought that people were now trying to break up the USA. Like was done to Yugoslavia and the USSR.
from CoastToCoastAm site
Next, author Robert Zubrin warned that the OPEC cartel wants to crash the American economy and then “buy out the wreckage.” He argued for a flex fuel mandate (so that cars will run on both gasoline and alcohol) and said that increased ethanol production is not related to food shortages. 500 million acres of US farmland are not being utilized, and we have tremendous capacity to expand production, he commented.
If you want to be a dentist, it’s rational to assume that if you go to school, get your degree, and set up a dental practice, you will be able to attain a comfortable standard of living. You may be able to project your probable income range with some degree of accuracy.
But if you want to be a rock star, it’s irrational to assume that if you go to rock school, get good at guitar, and start a band, you will become rich and famous.
According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s way of thinking, the dentist and the wannabe rock star fall into two distinct categories with drastically different risk characteristics. The dentist falls into the domain he calls ‘Mediocristan’, and the rock star, ‘Extremistan’. Extremistan is dominated by ‘fat tails’, or rare but profoundly significant events. Problems arise when we think we’re operating in Mediocristan but in fact are operating in Extremistan.”Karl Marx wanted to turn knowledge into action, what I want to do is turn our lack of knowledge into action”. Taleb suggests that by becoming aware of our own ignorance, we can stop taking action where our action is irrational.
I’m on my second reading of Fooled By Randomness and am very much looking forward to The Black Swan. In the meantime I’ve been hunting down all the audio I can find on Taleb because his talks are extremely interesting and he is a very engaging speaker. He has a bit of attitude when addressing an audience, in part no doubt because much of what he has to say offends of lot of people, especially anyone whose expertise is related to forecasting. He has obvious disdain for financial forecasters in particular, probably because he sees the impact these ‘guys in suits riding around in limousines’ have on the lives of ‘people taking the subway to work everyday’ (i.e.pensions).
What Taleb has to say has resonated with me at a very deep level. Much of the facts and studies he brings to light confirm my long lingering suspicion that something about the way the world sees itself is profoundly inaccurate and weirdly irrational.
I’ve listened to each of these talks at least a half dozen times and every time I do I take away another profound insight. Be sure to check out Taleb’s Home Page as well. Taleb on EconTalk.org April 30, 2007 LongNow Lecture-The Future Has Always Been Crazier Than We Thought Feb. 4, 2007
And from PopTech 2005:
Nassim Nicholas Taleb is not afraid to say “I don’t know.” In fact, he’s proud of his ignorance. A mathematician, philosopher and hedge-fund manager all in one iconoclastic package, Taleb demonstrates the wisdom in admitting the limitations of our knowledge.