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Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Best-Selling Author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Biography

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a philosopher, scholar of randomness, essayist, risk-management expert, and former trader. He is known for a multidisciplinary approach to the role of the high-impact rare event. Read More >

He is author of the New York Times bestseller The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, the revelatory book that explains everything we know about what we don’t know. In it, he defines a “black swan” as a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: it is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was. He concludes that black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives. He offers surprisingly simple tricks for dealing with black swans and benefiting from them, and changing the way we look at the world.

His newest book, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, a #1 New York Times Bestseller, redefines what it means to understand the world, succeed in a profession, contribute to a fair and just society, detect nonsense, and influence others. Taleb challenges long-held beliefs about the values of those who spearhead military interventions, make financial investments, and propagate religious faiths.

Previously, Taleb has held senior positions with major banks focusing on the trading and risk management of complex derivatives, and worked independently on the floor of the Chicago exchanges. He went on his own in 1999 and, until 2008, specialized in protecting portfolios against extreme events.

In addition to his other books and scholarly papers, Taleb is the author of the extremely popular Fooled by Chance: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, which was named by Fortune as one of The Smartest Books of All Time. His books have more than a million copies in print, and are translated into 27 languages.

He is currently a visiting professor at the London Business School. He held among other positions that of the Dean's Professor in the Sciences of Uncertainty at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and taught derivatives modeling at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University. He has an MBA from Wharton and a PhD from the University of Paris.

The London Times has described Taleb as a “giant of modern thought… The hottest thinker in the world,” and GQ calls him “the most prophetic voice of all.” Read Less ^

Speech Topics

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life

Taleb redefines what it means to understand the world, succeed in a profession, contribute to a fair and just society, detect nonsense, and influence others. Citing examples ranging from Hammurabi to Seneca, Antaeus the Giant to Donald Trump, Nassim Nicholas Taleb shows how the willingness to accept one’s own risks is an essential attribute of heroes, saints, and flourishing people in all walks of life. Read More >

As always both accessible and iconoclastic, Taleb challenges long-held beliefs about the values of those who spearhead military interventions, make financial investments, and propagate religious faiths.

Among his insights: Read Less ^

  • For social justice, focus on symmetry and risk sharing. You cannot make profits and transfer the risks to others, as bankers and large corporations do. You cannot get rich without owning your own risk and paying for your own losses. Forcing skin in the game corrects this asymmetry better than thousands of laws and regulations.
  • Ethical rules aren’t universal. You’re part of a group larger than you, but it’s still smaller than humanity in general.
  • Minorities, not majorities, run the world. The world is not run by consensus but by stubborn minorities imposing their tastes and ethics on others.
  • You can be an intellectual yet still be an idiot. “Educated philistines” have been wrong on everything from Stalinism to Iraq to low-carb diets.
  • Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find). A simple barbell can build muscle better than expensive new machines.
  • True religion is commitment, not just faith. How much you believe in something is manifested only by what you’re willing to risk for it.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Fooled by Chance: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life & in the Markets