Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Author of Best Selling Books The black swan Y Fooled by randomness, you have a new book that will be published on November 30, 2010. The name of your new book is The Procrustean bed: philosophical and practical aphorisms. For fans of Taleb’s work and ideas, this should be a welcome addition to Taleb’s existing body of work.
Procrustean is a character from Greek mythology. According to the myth, he owned a farm and kidnapped people who were traveling. He had a special bed that he kept for these travelers, and the bed was of a certain length. It would force travelers to make themselves comfortable in bed, and it would do so by cutting off the legs of the taller travelers and stretching the shorter travelers, all to fit on the bed.
Taleb uses the myth of Procustes to describe what humans routinely do. We often have preconceived ideas, models, and belief systems, and we try to “stretch” the world around us to fit these preconceptions. We try to force the world around us to match what we already believe in, and we often face disastrous consequences due to this problem. Taleb believes that only when we accept the unknown and accept the limits of our knowledge can we truly understand the world around us.
Taleb is best known for his black swan theory, which describes events that are very difficult or even impossible to predict but that have a great impact. Part of the nature of Black Swan events is that the probability of their occurrence is very small, so they are unpredictable before they occur. However, the same psychological biases that prevent us from predicting these events make them seem perfectly predictable and anticipated after they occur.
Taleb gained a lot of notoriety with his black swan theory, in large part because his ideas were able to predict and explain the financial crisis of 2007-2008. He has also been a prominent critic of the Federal Reserve, regulators and bankers, who are held largely responsible for the crisis.
He’s been in a “media blackout” for some time because he got tired of answering the same questions about his book and his theories. You’ve spoken to the media on occasion over the past few months, but your regular readers are probably very excited that you’re coming out of the blackout to share a new book with the world.
The new book looks like it will consist of a collection of aphorisms. According to Wikipedia, an aphorism is “an original thought, spoken or written in a laconic and memorable way.”
Taleb has posted a preview of the book on his website. You can find the sneak peek at Fooled By Randomness, Taleb’s personal website.
I read the preview and I think there are some great things in there. My favorite so far is this: “An idea starts to get interesting when you’re afraid to take it to its logical conclusion.” I, for one, can’t wait for the new book, and I hope you share the excitement!