Several weeks ago on Twitter I wrote (in an obviously very short form) why I thought that Taleb was one of the most important thinkers today. Let me explain in greater detail. Taleb went from (a) technical observation about non-Gaussian distributions of some phenomena to (b) generalization of what this means for our perception of reality and the way we comprehend things (epistemology) to (c) methodology of knowledge and the role of inductive thinking to finally (d) a statement on ethics. To convey this he created a new type of writing. I will leave this last part undiscussed, but whoever has read Taleb knows that his writing style is absolutely original and like Borges’ can be imitated but never fully mastered.
Let me now explain each of the four points. My original acquaintance with Taleb’s writings (and this may be true for many other people) came from his Black Swan and the sudden celebrity status of somebody who has seen the Great Recession coming. But while this may or may not be true, I think that it is of quite secondary, or altogether minor, importance. What Taleb has done with his Fooled by Randomness and Black Swan is to have directed our attention to a class of phenomena that exhibit very skewed distributions to the right and fat tails. It is important to point out that there are two facts here: high-end values and their relatively great frequency (as compared to Gaussian distributions).

ミラノビッチは、(a)について洪水の例を挙げ、タレブが「第四象限」と呼ぶ、分散の分散が大きい現象(=未知の未知なるもの[unknown unknowns])の概念を紹介した後、(b)について以下のように書いている。

From that series of observations that represent the core of Black Swan, Taleb moves to the question of how we comprehend things and learn about them. An empirically-based observational approach leads him to prefer inductive, “tinkering” approach to deductive one. Moreover, the tinkering approach was linked in Antifragile to not only robustness (that is, not being negatively affected by volatility) but to a newly defined characteristic of “anti-fragility”, that is of being positively affected (thriving) in conditions of volatility. His view is that only systems that have been created by a long process of tinkering (i.e., evolution) have sufficient resilience to withstand Black Swan events.


This has also led him to conservative political philosophy, similar to Edmund Burke’s (whom he does not mention): institutions should not be changed based on deductive reasoning; they should be left as they are not because they are rational and efficient in an ideal sense but because the very fact that they have survived a long time shows that they are resilient. Taleb’s approach there has a lot in common not only with Burke but also with Tocqueville, Chateaubriand and Popper (whom he quotes quite a lot). One may notice how a technical/statistical point made by Taleb such as “my field is error avoidance” leads to agreeing with Hayek’s critique of the “conceit of reason”. (I do not agree with this approach but my point here is to explain how I see the logic of Taleb’s system developing).

そしてそこから導かれたタレブの倫理((d))が、言行一致を説く「Skin in the Game*2」ということになる*3(ただしミラノビッチは、そういう見方もある、という書き方をしており、この点でも必ずしもタレブに同意しているわけではなさそうである)。


Taleb has succeeded, as I mentioned in the beginning, in creating a full system that goes from empirics to ethics, a thing which is exceedingly rare in modern world. Whether because we are tired of grand systems or because our knowledge has been parceled due to the way knowledge is created and disseminated in modern academia, but very few people are able to create systems of thought that go across multiple disciplines and display internal coherence. This the uniqueness and importance of Nassim Taleb.

*1:cf. ここ


Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (English Edition)

Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (English Edition)

*3:cf. ここ