When you catch someone with a shoddy-but-carefully-curated story, Edward Snowden, producing the mother of bad faith arguments (in effect, lying) while, in addition, facilitating a character assassination (and severe cyberharassment), something very, very sinister about the person emerges that can help answer some fundamental yet still hanging questions.

Say I tell you about this well furnished institute based in Saudi Arabia (with a fridge full of fermented yoghurt drinks) that fights for women’s rights in the U.S. You do not need to be an expert on gender studies to see the incongruity and would assume the countries were mistakenly inverted…


Foreword to Mark Spitznagel’s book Safe Haven [Amazon]

Santa Marina — Karl Popper — Herman Hesse’s Sidharta — Mutua Muli — Porsche’s no substitute

Santa Marina

In my ancestral village in the Northern Levant, on top of a hill, stands a church dedicated to Santa Marina. Marina is a local saint, though, characteristically, some other traditions claim her –such as Bithynia or other Anatolian provinces of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Marina grew up in a wealthy family, in the fifth century of our era. After the death of her mother, her father decided to turn his back to civil existence and embrace…


Foreword for Cut the Knot: Probability Riddles by Alexander B.

In New jersey, an Italian restaurant

How do you learn a language? There are two routes; the first is to memorize imperfect verbs, grammatical rules, future vs. past tenses, recite boring context-free sentences, and pass an exam. The second approach consists in going to a bar, struggling a little bit and, out of the need to blend-in and integrate with a fun group of people, then suddenly find yourself able to communicate. In other words, by playing, by being alive as a human being. I personally have never seen anyone learn to speak a language properly by the first route. …


1) Religions map to highly differentiated belief clusters and mentalities that have little to do with their theologies, 2) Heresies are separatist movements, often ethnic, and have little to do with religious doctrine.

“This city,” [Constantinople] says he [Gregory of Nyssa], “is full of mechanics and slaves, who are all of them profound theologians; and preach in the shops, and in the streets. If you desire a man to change a piece of silver, he informs you, wherein the Son differs from the Father; if you ask the price of a loaf, you are told by way of reply, that the Son is inferior to the Father; and if you inquire, whether the bath is ready, the answer is, that the Son was made out of nothing.”, via Gibbon, Hist. of The Decl…


About two years before the recent collapse, at a dinner, a then (slow thinking) member of the Lebanese parliament kept bugging me for an economic forecast. There was already some anxiety in the air. My answer was that we were facing imminent financial disaster, but that it was not necessarily bad news, long term. Why? Because such a total collapse could lead to natural responses that are better than the one we would have spontaneously, going from patching bad stuff to patching worse stuff. The lira was artificially kept too strong for any industry to survive and the financial system…


Incompetence and Errors in Reasoning Around Face Covering

SIX ERRORS: 1) missing the compounding effects of masks, 2) missing the nonlinearity of the probability of infection to viral exposures, 3) missing absence of evidence (of benefits of mask wearing) for evidence of absence (of benefits of mask wearing), 4) missing the point that people do not need governments to produce facial covering: they can make their own, 5) missing the compounding effects of statistical signals, 6) ignoring the Non-Aggression Principle by pseudolibertarians (masks are also to protect others from you; it’s a multiplicative process: every person you infect will infect others).

In fact masks (and faceshields) supplemented with…


(With Mark Spitznagel)

The U.S. government is enacting measures to save the airlines, Boeing, and similarly affected corporations. While we clearly insist that these companies must be saved, there may be ethical, economic, and structural problems associated with the details of the execution. As a matter of fact, if you study the history of bailouts, there will be.

Saving Those on th Medusa

The bailouts of 2008–9 saved the banks (but mostly the bankers), thanks to the execution by then-treasury secretary Timothy Geithner who fought for bank executives against both Congress and some other members of the Obama administration. Bankers who lost more money than ever earned in…


For some technical backbone to this piece,see here.

(Revised draft: added comments on sinister country profiling. Also 1) Used the same data as researchers to find that R² for IQ-wealth and IQ-income is effectively 0 in spite of the circularity. 2) Turns out IQ beats random selection in the best of applications by less than 6%, typically <2%, as the computation of correlations have a flaw and psychologists do not seem to know the informational value of correlation in terms of “how much do I gain information about B knowing A” and propagation of error (intra-test variance for a single…


Clearing the discourse of abuses and abusers. The more you institutionalize rules of ethical behavior that should be voluntary (say, anti-racism, anti-sexism), the more they will be used as a cover for unethical actions.

Pedophrasty

Definition: Argument involving children to prop up a rationalization and make the opponent look like an asshole, as people are defenseless and suspend all skepticism in front of suffering children: nobody has the heart to question the authenticity or source of the reporting. Often done with the aid of pictures.

Can also describe the exploitation of babies by professional beggars who rent them from their parents and use them as potent appendage in their trade(remember that children tend to grow and need to be replaced).


When selecting a surgeon for your next brain procedure, should you pick a surgeon who looks like a butcher or one who looks like a surgeon? The logic of skin in the game implies you need to select the one who (while credentialed) looks the least like what you would expect from a surgeon, or, rather, the Hollywood version of a surgeon.

The same logic mysteriously answers many vital questions, such as 1) the difference between rationality and rationalization, 2) that between virtue and virtue signaling, 3) the nature of honor and sacrifice, 4) Religion and signaling (why the pope…

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store