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Nassim Nicholas Taleb - Recap

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Colbert was hilarious.

Taleb: Take Google, September 911, the rise of the internet, Harry Potter…They were unexpected and no one saw them coming, and after they happened, oh yah, it was so explainable by historians, scholars and academics, but before they happened, they were so unexpected. And guess what? These events…they run the world. [The internet was predicted in several publications in the 1980’s. Harry Potter – an event that runs the world?]


Colbert: So you say…911 could not be predicted.

Taleb: It is very very hard to predict these events [He probably never heard of the July 2006 intelligence report that stated that Bin Laden was determined to strike within the United States of almost identical title]

Colbert: …I’m glad to hear that, because that means the 911 Commission was a waste of time. Because we shouldn’t have investigated why it happend, right?

Taleb: You need you need [sic] to investigate to see if it is predicatable or not…

Colbert: But why? Why investigate something that can’t be predicted, because there is nothing to learn from it.

Taleb: No, after the fact, Okay, you have to look at…uh…first of all you can learn something from the event, it’s not like you can’t learn at all.

Colbert: Okay

Taleb: But 911, 911, what I’m saying is that its there is so many events like 911 that could have taken place, you see, so, its just to see if there’s responsibility, is there any vigilance or no vigilance. This is why we investigated 911.

Colbert: ..Is Iraq a Black Swan? We couldn’t have ever foreseen it would go poorly, we would never have known that was not going to go well…

Taleb: No, wars, wars, yah, listen, wars since Napolean [only since Napolean? This guy needs to learn some history]…we learned that wars…wars are more and more unpredictable, more and more complex, the link between action and consequence becoming fuzzier, and I think that the war in Iraq was a mistake…we should have seen that it could have led to these dire consequences.

Colbert: We should have but we didn’t, therefore we couldn’t.


Colbert: It seems like you’re essentially saying the future is unpredictable.

Taleb: No, I’m saying, yes, my idea in the book is to show two things: number one that the future is rather unpredictable, it is dominated by Black Swans and these black swans are not predictable, and the second point that is quite central, is that we humans…all right?...try to concoct stories [like his 911 story, his Iraq story and his Napolean story] to convince ourselves that the future is more predictable than it actually is…

Colbert: The future is essentially not predictable.

Taleb: Yes, it’s not.

Colbert: By that logic, doesn’t it mean that in the future you will be able to predict things, because you are predicting that you cannot predict things?