Nasim Taleb Speaks Wednesday

Discussion in 'Wall St. News' started by marketsurfer, Apr 15, 2007.


    <b>Nassim Taleb-- The BlackSwan book launch

    by marketsurfer&annaland</b>

    Last night we attended Nassim Taleb's new book launch, The Black Swan � The Impact of the Highly Improbable on Park Ave, NYC . The event was well attended with approximately 120 people. The audience included several heavyweight quantitative people such as Dr. Emanuel Derman. It was well-orchestrated compared to the madhouse of George Soros's signing event, which I attended earlier in the year. Little touches like serving Black Swan wines as a marketing tie-in added to the friendly, collegial ambiance. The jovial crowd appeared to consist of academics, young suits, and book types.

    An animated and vocal Nassim took the stage, first stressing that his new book was not about finance, then admitting that he does not like the subject and finds it exceedingly boring. In true Nassim fashion he began by ripping on history books, saying most historians are full of beans and not to take any history book seriously. He added that historians and stock analysts are similar. During his speech, he raised the following question, "How many traders are in the room?" Sitting near the back of the room, we counted perhaps eight hands � I was expecting a much larger representation of the trading community.

    Nassim then jumped into the issue of retrospective distortion � using the recent Virginia Tech shootings as fodder for his idea. By retrospective distortion he meant the way humans tend to evaluate and make sense of matters after the fact, constructing an orderly event in hindsight. The more significant things he talked about included his belief that experts do not exist in complex domains, that using cumulative advantage loops and preferential advantage concepts is not a proper way to conceptualize black swans and, perhaps his most interesting statement, that all design has its genesis in randomness � the implications of this idea are profound. He elaborated a little on several topics, then opened the floor up for questions.

    Not surprisingly, the first question focused on Malcolm Gladwell's New Yorker article . He was visibly annoyed and without delay stated that the article was an example of a "false narrative" � another concept he talks about in the book. He said that the article worked wonders for selling his book, but for the wrong reasons. However, he made it clear that the right reason for buying his book was boring. Nassim then quickly moved on to the next question.

    He fielded questions about the central aspect of his new book, claiming that the Normal and Gaussian distributions are frauds, primarily because probabilities drop when moving away from the mean, while with Mandelbrot's variations this does not occur. He then was asked several specific financial questions, which he politely dodged and commented that he does not know what the next Black Swan is or how to predict it. Time was up and the book signing began � several of the audience members carried a dozen or more books for his autograph. Not sure if they were for resale on eBay, but I'll monitor for a bit to see if they end up there.

    Nassim was very energetic and his occasional irritation was short-lived. He dropped the F bomb on several occasions, quickly changing to proper words with a chuckle � not sure if this was done purely for effect or if it is his natural vocabulary. His lively delivery and friendly demeanor made it an entertaining and unique evening. My initial impressions of the book, after a cursory read, are that it appears interesting, well documented and entertaining. I'm looking forward to further reading this week.
    #51     Apr 20, 2007
  2. great read, thanks marketsurfer. wish i could have gone to that.

    i'm just pissed that my copy didnt come today, damnit!
    #52     Apr 20, 2007

  3. Thanks, happy you like it!

    #53     Apr 20, 2007
  4. That was a very good and interesting post, surf. Also, I note that your command of the English language is far better in your article than when you are slumming it here at ET.
    #54     Apr 20, 2007
  5. Surf,

    I was there and I have to say and I say this with regret, NNT was incredibly pompous, arrogant, easily irritated, especially about finance questions and to me incredibly ungentlemanly.

    The use of the F word I think was for effect..but I may be wrong.

    I love intellectuals, but NNT's intellectual arrogance and poor manners offended me greatly plus he signed my two books so brusquely with out the basic courtesy.

    I used to be a fan - a long time fan (since 1996) but no more.
    #55     Apr 20, 2007
  6. Why, thank you, Thunderdog. Very nice of you.


    #56     Apr 20, 2007
  7. jem


    i concur you made your review an interesting read.
    #57     Apr 20, 2007

  8. interesting observation. yes, i agree he was agitated with any trading/ financial question and totally dismissed several of them.

    however, i found him to be a friendly, nice guy. we spoke prior to his speech, he was personable and quite funny. its fascinating how 2 people at the same event can have such vastly different reads. thanks for the perspective.


    #58     Apr 20, 2007

  9. thanks, jem.

    #59     Apr 20, 2007

  10. you left the last(best) paragraph out!! :p :p :p hahaha
    and again thats one talented photographer! :)
    #60     Apr 20, 2007