The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

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The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Verde » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:38 am

Eric Falkenstein resumes his long standing feud with Nassim Taleb with this lengthy but telling review of Taleb’s latest book ‘Antifragile’

http://falkenblog.blogspot.com/2012/11/ ... ility.html

Some excerpts:

‘His latest book Antifragile is driven by his discovery that there is not an English word for the opposite of fragile, which he thinks could not be 'robust' (this neologism is one of the few new ideas presented in this book, not that I think we need more new Taleb ideas). Fragile things lose a lot of value when mishandled, 'anti-fragile' things increase a lot in value when mishandled. He thinks this is very profound and therefore needs a book. The problem is that mishandle implies an adverse effect by definition, which is why there isn't a word for something that goes up in value when you mishandle it.’

‘The concept of things increasing in value with small probabilities is well-known. They are the basis for patent trolls, venture capital, oil drilling, poring over a sheet of financials, and dating (a single prince makes the many other tedious dates worthwhile). Having good luck, winning lottery tickets, is nice, but how to achieve this is not straightforward, and certainly not simply by being long lots of them.’

‘He doesn't identify key attributes of attractive, risky (oops, antifragile!) opportunities, just implies they are the ones that unlike options and lottery tickets, work well. In fact, he's anti-theory, so one supposedly finds them by random sampling (aka 'trial and error'). That's a strategy statistically proven to underperform, catering to the biases most investors have, why both day trading bucket shops thrive and low volatility investing works. As a self-help book it's like someone saying you should eat more sugar, a strategy many will find highly convenient.’

‘Taleb often suggests it is good to be long volatility, things that gain from greater uncertainty. As the VXX has shown, while this has nice covariance properties with the stock market (going up in 2008), it has a horrible long run return even including disasters like 2008 or the 1987 stock market crash, it's cost is much greater than the thing it is supposed to hedge. I bet many of the unfortunate investors who have ridden the VXX to zero over its existence have a copy of The Black Swan on their bookshelf (and you can extrapolate it backwards, and even if it started in 2006 it would be a loser). The 'long vega' bias simply isn't a good one.’
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby pkcrafter » Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:51 am

Thanks, I think Falkenstein has it pretty much right.

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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby nisiprius » Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:29 pm

I've never been sure how Taleb's own investing philosophy differs from "I like to play long shots."

(I'm still trying, unsuccessfully, to come up with a wisecrack that would include the word irrefragable, which means irrefutable or indisputable. I ran across that word in Jack London's novels, he's always talking about "the irrefragable logic of the elements" and such).
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Levett » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:43 pm

There is a very different, much more positive, review in last weekend's Wall Street Journal.
(Matt Ridley, "Economic Bricolage").

Increase the size of the sample.

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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby VictoriaF » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:58 pm

Levett wrote:There is a very different, much more positive, review in last weekend's Wall Street Journal.
(Matt Ridley, "Economic Bricolage").

Increase the size of the sample.

Lev

Thank you, Lev.

I will be getting "Antifragile" on Monday when Taleb will be doing book signing in D.C. I will judge for myself if there is any merit in the Taleb's detractors' comments.

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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Jebediah » Wed Nov 28, 2012 4:21 pm

Taleb's talents seem to be a) the ability to repackage and popularize undergraduate stats concepts with pretense of originality; b) self-promotion.

It's a winning income strategy and a losing credibility strategy
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Taleb is the best!!!

Postby grok87 » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:47 pm

I think some are perhaps missing the point. Taleb does not consider himself an investor anymore, nor a statistician but a philosopher.

I've just bought the book and am finding it very good so far.

"And we can almost always detect antifragility (and fragility) using a simple test of asymmetry; anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile."

Yes, yes, a hundred times yes...
:)

So corporate bonds, No.
Selling covered calls, No.
Equities (and in particular small/value), Yes.
Buying LEAPS, Yes.

See this link,
viewtopic.php?f=10&t=87293
#4 and #10.

cheers,
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby cbeck » Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:16 pm

Levett wrote:There is a very different, much more positive, review in last weekend's Wall Street Journal.
(Matt Ridley, "Economic Bricolage").

Increase the size of the sample.

Lev


Oh sure, Matt Ridley. Mr. Chairman of Northern Rock when it became the first British bank to have a run in 100 years because of Ridley's management and was subsequently bailed out by the Brits with 30 billion pounds. None of which seems to have dimmed Ridley's abiding faith in the efficiency of markets.

That Matt Ridley. I'd be very interested in what he has to say about risky investing strategies. Not.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Levett » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:39 pm

Was it Freud who discussed the phenomenon of "author envy?" :wink:

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Re: Taleb is the best!!!

Postby Jebediah » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:40 pm

grok87 wrote:I think some are perhaps missing the point. Taleb does not consider himself an investor anymore, nor a statistician but a philosopher.


Oh how I hope you're joking. I think he's whatever he can get you to believe he "is".
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby market timer » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:46 pm

grok87 wrote:"And we can almost always detect antifragility (and fragility) using a simple test of asymmetry; anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile."

Yes, yes, a hundred times yes...
:)

So corporate bonds, No.
Selling covered calls, No.
Equities (and in particular small/value), Yes.
Buying LEAPS, Yes.

I'd add human capital to that list. In particular, we would probably all do better to appreciate how antifragile our human capital is--take more risks, search for more opportunities.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby market timer » Wed Nov 28, 2012 10:47 pm

Jebediah wrote:Taleb's talents seem to be a) the ability to repackage and popularize undergraduate stats concepts with pretense of originality; b) self-promotion.

The entire field of economics is little more than this.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby arcticpineapplecorp. » Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:04 pm

Good interview by Russ Roberts (on econtalk) with Taleb about Antifragility while he was writing the book (back in January) prior to it being published.

http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/0 ... ntifr.html

Enjoy
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby grok87 » Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:16 pm

market timer wrote:
grok87 wrote:"And we can almost always detect antifragility (and fragility) using a simple test of asymmetry; anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile."

Yes, yes, a hundred times yes...
:)

So corporate bonds, No.
Selling covered calls, No.
Equities (and in particular small/value), Yes.
Buying LEAPS, Yes.

I'd add human capital to that list. In particular, we would probably all do better to appreciate how antifragile our human capital is--take more risks, search for more opportunities.

Agree- that's a big part of his message.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Tonen » Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:20 am

Surely the antonym of fragile is resilient? Arguably, resilient businesses (or people) are considered valuable after withstanding "mishandling"
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby kramer » Thu Nov 29, 2012 12:27 am

In the field of horticulture we used to use the word "hearty" to describe plants that were "anti-fragile". But maybe the meaning is slightly different.
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Re: Taleb is the best!!!

Postby Verde » Thu Nov 29, 2012 3:21 am

grok87 wrote:I think some are perhaps missing the point. Taleb does not consider himself an investor anymore, nor a statistician but a philosopher.

I've just bought the book and am finding it very good so far.

"And we can almost always detect antifragility (and fragility) using a simple test of asymmetry; anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile."

Yes, yes, a hundred times yes...
:)

So corporate bonds, No.
Selling covered calls, No.
Equities (and in particular small/value), Yes.
Buying LEAPS, Yes.

See this link,
viewtopic.php?f=10&t=87293
#4 and #10.

cheers,


This illustrates my disagreement with Taleb - your post, like his book makes no reference to price. According to this view the market somehow always gets it wrong when pricing 'antifragility' -regardless of price it is always a buy. I don't get it.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby grok87 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:20 am

Tonen wrote:Surely the antonym of fragile is resilient? Arguably, resilient businesses (or people) are considered valuable after withstanding "mishandling"

nope, he has a trinity going: fragille-resilient-antifragile. you should read the book
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby grok87 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:21 am

kramer wrote:In the field of horticulture we used to use the word "hearty" to describe plants that were "anti-fragile". But maybe the meaning is slightly different.

yes, this is getting towards his arguments. he thinks living things are by design anti-fragile. he's basically following Nietzsche "that which does not kill us makes us stronger"
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Re: Taleb is the best!!!

Postby grok87 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:25 am

Verde wrote:
grok87 wrote:I think some are perhaps missing the point. Taleb does not consider himself an investor anymore, nor a statistician but a philosopher.

I've just bought the book and am finding it very good so far.

"And we can almost always detect antifragility (and fragility) using a simple test of asymmetry; anything that has more upside than downside from random events (or certain shocks) is antifragile; the reverse is fragile."

Yes, yes, a hundred times yes...
:)

So corporate bonds, No.
Selling covered calls, No.
Equities (and in particular small/value), Yes.
Buying LEAPS, Yes.

See this link,
viewtopic.php?f=10&t=87293
#4 and #10.

cheers,


This illustrates my disagreement with Taleb - your post, like his book makes no reference to price. According to this view the market somehow always gets it wrong when pricing 'antifragility' -regardless of price it is always a buy. I don't get it.

it's a vaild point. I think he would say that the probabilities of these rare events (black swans) are unknowable. And that anyone who says they can calculate them is a charlatan (he often uses more colorful terms!) so basically you need to position yourself to benefit from them.
be careful with just as straight expected value calculation. its the utility of wealth (and relative utility of wealth that matters). if you are left standing when everyone else has been destroyed, that is incredibly valuable. think joseph kennedy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_P._Kennedy,_Sr.
cheers,
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby peppers » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:40 am

Fortunately, I thrive on rejection.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Levett » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:56 am

grok observed: "he thinks living things are by design anti-fragile. he's basically following Nietzsche "that which does not kill us makes us stronger"

That's a really apt application of Nietzche.

My compliments.

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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby VictoriaF » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:08 am

Along the same lines, a hard deadline sometimes stimulates the best work.

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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby john94549 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:25 am

Some folks have way too much free time.

This is why I chuckle when I get those solicitations from my alma mater.

Any pittance I might add to their endowment, well, we're talking a rounding error.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby leo383 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:29 am

I think most Bogleheads are already very Taleb-like in their thinking. Knowing that the future is unknowable. Skeptical of "experts" and wanting to build a portfolio and an investing attitude that is capable of withstanding even the worst.

Most investors out there aren't Taleb-like. His books are for them.

I think Taleb's personal investments are something like 90% treasuries and 10% exotic venture capital things that probably will go bust but if they don't, can boom like crazy. Most individual investors probably don't have access to this type of speculative bets.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby grok87 » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:52 pm

Levett wrote:grok observed: "he thinks living things are by design anti-fragile. he's basically following Nietzsche "that which does not kill us makes us stronger"

That's a really apt application of Nietzche.

My compliments.

Lev

thanks Lev.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby stlutz » Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:47 pm

I think most Bogleheads are already very Taleb-like in their thinking. Knowing that the future is unknowable. Skeptical of "experts" and wanting to build a portfolio and an investing attitude that is capable of withstanding even the worst.

Most investors out there aren't Taleb-like. His books are for them.

I think Taleb's personal investments are something like 90% treasuries and 10% exotic venture capital things that probably will go bust but if they don't, can boom like crazy. Most individual investors probably don't have access to this type of speculative bets.


Actually, just the opposite. As an investor, Taleb scorns the idea of a balanced portfolio of stocks, bonds etc. The kind of portfolios we assemble are based around the 98% of most likely scenarios, not the completely unknowable stuff.

Holding 90% cash and 10% out of the money put options is not something you'd ever see recommended here. That's a good thing, since the best moneymaking strategy in options is selling puts to folks like Taleb.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby grok87 » Fri Nov 30, 2012 4:46 am

stlutz wrote:
I think most Bogleheads are already very Taleb-like in their thinking. Knowing that the future is unknowable. Skeptical of "experts" and wanting to build a portfolio and an investing attitude that is capable of withstanding even the worst.

Most investors out there aren't Taleb-like. His books are for them.

I think Taleb's personal investments are something like 90% treasuries and 10% exotic venture capital things that probably will go bust but if they don't, can boom like crazy. Most individual investors probably don't have access to this type of speculative bets.


Actually, just the opposite. As an investor, Taleb scorns the idea of a balanced portfolio of stocks, bonds etc. The kind of portfolios we assemble are based around the 98% of most likely scenarios, not the completely unknowable stuff.

Holding 90% cash and 10% out of the money put options is not something you'd ever see recommended here. That's a good thing, since the best moneymaking strategy in options is selling puts to folks like Taleb.

well there's always the Zvi Bodie aproach
viewtopic.php?t=71927
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby staythecourse » Fri Nov 30, 2012 10:45 am

Taleb's success as an author is purely based on RECENCY bias and nothing more. If he wrote the same books in any period where stocks were doing well NO ONE would know who he was.

The poster above shows HOW powerful recency bias can be. It is ridiculous for anyone to have made a career on discussing a scenario that happens >2S.d. of the time AND that he admits has no way of predicting in advance.

I have never understood his draw.

For bogleheads just remember investing is all about PROBABILITIES and not POSSIBILITIES.

Good luck.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby irwinmfletcher » Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:43 am

I find it interesting that many on here spend so much time talking about Taleb's investing theory when 95% of the book has nothing to do with personal investing. If you don't like his investing advice (which I do not follow), I think there is some excellent stuff about living life in general.

For example, in anti-fragile (and I am not even a quarter through it), there is much about the variabilty and fragility of career choices that is pure gold in my opinion.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby VictoriaF » Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:45 am

staythecourse wrote:Taleb's success as an author is purely based on RECENCY bias and nothing more. If he wrote the same books in any period where stocks were doing well NO ONE would know who he was.

The poster above shows HOW powerful recency bias can be. It is ridiculous for anyone to have made a career on discussing a scenario that happens >2S.d. of the time AND that he admits has no way of predicting in advance.

I have never understood his draw.

For bogleheads just remember investing is all about PROBABILITIES and not POSSIBILITIES.

Good luck.


Taleb's draw as a philosopher is that he demonstrates how possibilities dominate probabilities.

- "Fooled by Randomness" came out in 2001, and it was popular during the 2002-2003 market recovery.
- "The Black Swan" came out in 2007, and it was an instant bestseller in the year when S&P500 has reached its all-time high.
- "Antifragile" came out a couple days ago, and it is selling quite well despite healthy market returns this year.
Today Amazon.com wrote: Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
#1 in Books > Health, Fitness & Dieting > Psychology & Counseling
#1 in Books > Business & Investing > Investing > Stocks
#2 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Philosophy


Perhaps, people enjoying Taleb's writing have a better developed ability for an abstract thought than those who resort to platitudes such as "recency bias".

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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby nisiprius » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:59 pm

staythecourse wrote:It is ridiculous for anyone to have made a career on discussing a scenario that happens >2S.d. of the time AND that he admits has no way of predicting in advance.For bogleheads just remember investing is all about PROBABILITIES and not POSSIBILITIES.
Surely you do not believe that scenarios 2 s.d. (sigmas) from the mean only happen 5% of the time. The LTCM meltdown that nearly took down the U.S. financial system was a 10 sigma event. The whole problem with a "probabilities" approach is that it is virtually impossible to get an accurate estimate of the probability of a low-probability event. In fact, even if there were any reason to believe that there were a quantitative statistical model, known a priori to be valid, for the tails of the distribution, it would still take gazillions of millenia to collect enough data to make the estimate.

Larry Swedroe says "never mistake the improbable for the impossible."
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby grok87 » Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:19 pm

irwinmfletcher wrote:I find it interesting that many on here spend so much time talking about Taleb's investing theory when 95% of the book has nothing to do with personal investing. If you don't like his investing advice (which I do not follow), I think there is some excellent stuff about living life in general.

For example, in anti-fragile (and I am not even a quarter through it), there is much about the variabilty and fragility of career choices that is pure gold in my opinion.

+1
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Re: Taleb is the best!!!

Postby dumbmoney » Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:16 pm

grok87 wrote:So corporate bonds, No.
Selling covered calls, No.
Equities (and in particular small/value), Yes.
Buying LEAPS, Yes.


A single small cap stock, yes. Not a diversified portfolio of stocks.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Epsilon Delta » Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:43 pm

nisiprius wrote:Surely you do not believe that scenarios 2 s.d. (sigmas) from the mean only happen 5% of the time. The LTCM meltdown that nearly took down the U.S. financial system was a 10 sigma event. The whole problem with a "probabilities" approach is that it is virtually impossible to get an accurate estimate of the probability of a low-probability event. In fact, even if there were any reason to believe that there were a quantitative statistical model, known a priori to be valid, for the tails of the distribution, it would still take gazillions of millenia to collect enough data to make the estimate.

Larry Swedroe says "never mistake the improbable for the impossible."


People like the illusion of precision so they use the language of probability, such as "10 sigma event", when they really mean something vague, like "darn peculiar". This increases errors, because the "square root of peculiar" is obvious nonsense, while calculations based on sigma can be non-obvious nonsense.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby stlutz » Sat Dec 01, 2012 3:33 am

I find it interesting that many on here spend so much time talking about Taleb's investing theory when 95% of the book has nothing to do with personal investing. If you don't like his investing advice (which I do not follow), I think there is some excellent stuff about living life in general.


Well, this is an investing forum after all :happy . The argument in defense of critiquing how his investment theories perform is that it is a check of how how his ideas line up with reality. In Fooled by Randomness, he claimed that he got rich as a trader while not working much because the market underpriced the chances of big drops. His critics assert that the data simply don't back him up. Looking at option pricing, the performance of penny stocks, the results of lending large amounts of money to people without income/jobs/assets etc. suggests that people actually over-estimate the chances of unusual events as opposed to the opposite.
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Re: Taleb is the best!!!

Postby Verde » Sat Dec 01, 2012 5:36 pm

grok87 wrote:I think he would say that the probabilities of these rare events (black swans) are unknowable. And that anyone who says they can calculate them is a charlatan (he often uses more colorful terms!) so basically you need to position yourself to benefit from them.
if you are left standing when everyone else has been destroyed, that is incredibly valuable. think joseph kennedy.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_P._Kennedy,_Sr.
cheers,


Positioning yourself to benefit from them might not be without risk.

Interview with Taleb and Roubini on CNBC on Feb 9 2009 (S&P 500: 870).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=en ... xX0fQ&NR=1

The host introduces them: “The next guests are both widely credited with predicting the current financial crisis”

From 8:49
Q: Nassim anything in your portfolio?

Taleb: Well I am between 100 and 200% cash which tells you that there is a short. People think that when they have cash they are not invested, with cash I’m there to pick up the pieces when we’re gonna see opportunities and in my opinion you’re gonna see a lot of stuff by people getting out of positions in the next 4-5 years.

Q: We’re not there yet?

Taleb: We’re not there, of course. I think, to me it’s just the beginning because we need to deleverage so massively that asset values are gonna tumble.


If I watched this interview in 2009 and decided that I want to invest like this guy who takes credit for predicting the crisis and went 200% cash by shorting the S&P 500, I would now be down 55%. If I did the opposite and went long S&P 500 I would be up 63%.

Read his books by all means, fawn over his erudite disparagement of establishment economists, but don’t follow his investment advice.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby market timer » Sat Dec 01, 2012 6:00 pm

I'm reading Antifragile now. Taleb certainly has a unique style of writing, and this seems the least edited of what's he's now referring to as his trilogy (FBR, BS, A).
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby baw703916 » Sat Dec 01, 2012 6:25 pm

cbeck wrote:Oh sure, Matt Ridley. Mr. Chairman of Northern Rock when it became the first British bank to have a run in 100 years because of Ridley's management and was subsequently bailed out by the Brits with 30 billion pounds. None of which seems to have dimmed Ridley's abiding faith in the efficiency of markets.

The markets were quite efficient at pointing out that Mr. Ridley's bank was insolvent and that he needed to be removed as chairman.
Most of my posts assume no behavioral errors.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby pascalwager » Sun Dec 02, 2012 5:10 am

Recently, Taleb said he was now all stocks, a little real estate, and no bonds.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Levett » Sun Dec 02, 2012 2:06 pm

For those so inclined, Mr. Taleb is interviewed today (Sunday) on Fareed Zakaria's GPS program on CNN.

Lev

Edit: Taleb was luminous with his examples/explanations. He had nothing to say about investing--other than rightly dismissing big banks as among the most fragile institutions.
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby VictoriaF » Sun Dec 02, 2012 6:30 pm

Levett wrote:For those so inclined, Mr. Taleb is interviewed today (Sunday) on Fareed Zakaria's GPS program on CNN.

Lev

Edit: Taleb was luminous with his examples/explanations. He had nothing to say about investing--other than rightly dismissing big banks as among the most fragile institutions.


I will see Taleb tomorrow at his book signing in D.C. I will not have a chance to speak with him, but if I could ask him a single question it would not be about his investing. My question would be about the life of a flâneur and independent scholar.

Victoria
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Levett » Sun Dec 02, 2012 9:04 pm

Victoria,

Taleb looked awfully content to me. 8-)

Lev
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A pro-Taleb view on Antifragile

Postby VictoriaF » Tue Dec 04, 2012 1:30 am

I attended Taleb's book signing earlier this evening. The event has exceeded my expectations. This represents a positive mini-Black Swan of its own, because usually when I have my expectations that high I end up mildly disappointed.

Taleb was very eloquent, funny and generous with his time. The organizer was playing the "bad cop" telling him how many minutes he had left; and Taleb was the "good cop" asking for a permission to share one more insight or to answer one more question. People started coming in and taking seats about an hour before the start. The store had put out about 100 chairs, and I think all of them were taken (I was sitting in front). The public was very friendly; the questions to Taleb were highly intelligent, but a few people tried to show off by asking long narrative questions. Taleb was skillfully interrupting long questions at a point where the essence of the question was clear. Early in the event Taleb said hello and exchanged short remarks with someone in the audience. Then during the discussion he has mentioned that person's name, which is very well known to all of us. (I will not reveal the person's name in the spirit of sscritic who in a similar situation has respected the privacy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when they were standing side by side in the powder room of a Natural Science Museum.)

Taleb is funny and pleasant. This is at odds with a common image of him as a fighter. I suppose he flourishes when he is surrounded by the like minded people and gets annoyed when stuffed shirts and empty skulls inundate him with some nonsense.

Taleb looks fit and energetic. This adds a spice to the book where, among other things, he shares his opinions about medicine based on his personal experiences and analysis. I would not be surprised if after this book, some doctors had joined economists and bankers in the camp of his detractors. But what he says is common sense; it's just that Taleb has a rare ability to point out commonsensical concepts that before him were in the blind spot.

I started reading the book on my way back home, and it seems to be everything Taleb says it is. I recognize some names in the Acknowledgement section such as Nouriel Roubini, Russ Roberts (the host of Econtalk), Dan Ariely, Nathan Myhrvold (profiled in Freakonomics), Emanuel Derman, and Art De Vany. I am honored to join the company of Taleb's distinguished readers.

Victoria
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Re: A pro-Taleb view on Antifragile

Postby pastafarian » Tue Dec 04, 2012 4:07 am

VictoriaF wrote:I attended Taleb's book signing earlier this evening. ... I am honored to join the company of Taleb's distinguished readers.

Victoria

Respectfully, this thread has nothing to do with investing. Then again I'm an empty skull.
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Re: A pro-Taleb view on Antifragile

Postby grok87 » Tue Dec 04, 2012 7:35 am

VictoriaF wrote:I attended Taleb's book signing earlier this evening. The event has exceeded my expectations. This represents a positive mini-Black Swan of its own, because usually when I have my expectations that high I end up mildly disappointed.

Taleb was very eloquent, funny and generous with his time. The organizer was playing the "bad cop" telling him how many minutes he had left; and Taleb was the "good cop" asking for a permission to share one more insight or to answer one more question. People started coming in and taking seats about an hour before the start. The store had put out about 100 chairs, and I think all of them were taken (I was sitting in front). The public was very friendly; the questions to Taleb were highly intelligent, but a few people tried to show off by asking long narrative questions. Taleb was skillfully interrupting long questions at a point where the essence of the question was clear. Early in the event Taleb said hello and exchanged short remarks with someone in the audience. Then during the discussion he has mentioned that person's name, which is very well known to all of us. (I will not reveal the person's name in the spirit of sscritic who in a similar situation has respected the privacy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle when they were standing side by side in the powder room of a Natural Science Museum.)

Taleb is funny and pleasant. This is at odds with a common image of him as a fighter. I suppose he flourishes when he is surrounded by the like minded people and gets annoyed when stuffed shirts and empty skulls inundate him with some nonsense.

Taleb looks fit and energetic. This adds a spice to the book where, among other things, he shares his opinions about medicine based on his personal experiences and analysis. I would not be surprised if after this book, some doctors had joined economists and bankers in the camp of his detractors. But what he says is common sense; it's just that Taleb has a rare ability to point out commonsensical concepts that before him were in the blind spot.

I started reading the book on my way back home, and it seems to be everything Taleb says it is. I recognize some names in the Acknowledgement section such as Nouriel Roubini, Russ Roberts (the host of Econtalk), Dan Ariely, Nathan Myhrvold (profiled in Freakonomics), Emanuel Derman, and Art De Vany. I am honored to join the company of Taleb's distinguished readers.

Victoria

Victoria,
THanks for the great review.
cheers,
grok, CFA | Danon delenda est
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Re: The anti-Taleb reviews Antifragile

Postby Levett » Tue Dec 04, 2012 8:22 am

I second Grok.

You describe the same man who was at ease with himself with Fareed Zakaria.

A couple of years ago when I saw Taleb interviewed he was much more combative.

I'm really glad to see him much more relaxed.

He's a unique person. We can't have enough of unique people who make us rethink what we thought we knew.

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Re: A pro-Taleb view on Antifragile

Postby VictoriaF » Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:12 pm

pastafarian wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:I attended Taleb's book signing earlier this evening. ... I am honored to join the company of Taleb's distinguished readers.

Victoria

Respectfully, this thread has nothing to do with investing. Then again I'm an empty skull.


A thread that has "anti-Taleb" in its title does, in fact, have nothing to do with investing. I was trying to remedy that. ;-)

In The Black Swan, Taleb has made a strong and convincing point that anything can happen; and that no history, no models, no authorities can protect us from the Black Swans. The Black-Swan events are unpredictable by their definition, they have such low probabilities and such high impacts that the calculation of their risk is impossible. If risk can be calculated, it is not a Black Swan. And so many people asked a natural question, what can one do about the Black Swans?

Antifragile answers this question. A short answer is, "Do not focus on the Black-Swan risks, which are unknown. Focus on the target (e.g., on yourself), which is something you can improve. The improvement is referred to as the attainment of antifragility. Antifragility is a concept that did not have a name so far; resiliency, robustness and other existing terms do not express Taleb's meaning. What distinguishes antifragility from other terms is that antifragile things benefit from stressors. In contrast, resilient and robust things withstand stressors but do not benefit from them. This short summary is not sufficient to internalize Taleb's point, just as a short summary of the concept of the Black Swan was not a replacement for reading that book.

After reading Antifragile and internalizing Taleb's logic and examples, one can apply them to one's own life. For example, the Bogleheads frequently refer to the experience of the past market declines as a strengthening factor in one's understanding of one's risk tolerance and ability to withstand future market calamities. This is an example of antifragility in the Bogleheads context.

Another tie in to investing is Taleb's statement that his first book on Dynamic Hedging provides the impetus for Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and Antifragile. Based on Taleb, the life of an options trader is a microcosm of the life at large, and deep understanding of the life of an options trader provides one with the core concepts for generalizing to the rest of life. While I would not recommend people becoming options traders in order to learn about life, I would recommend reading Taleb and learning from his examples.

Victoria
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Re: A pro-Taleb view on Antifragile

Postby pastafarian » Tue Dec 04, 2012 4:17 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
A thread that has "anti-Taleb" in its title does, in fact, have nothing to do with investing. I was trying to remedy that. ;-)

I half expected your post to mention women tossing hotel room keys or knickers at Taleb as if he were the second coming of Sir Thomas John Wodward (Tom Jones) or Arnold George Dorsey (Englebert Humperdink). You were practically breathless in your admiration.

Antifragility is a concept that did not have a name so far; resiliency, robustness and other existing terms do not express Taleb's meaning. What distinguishes antifragility from other terms is that antifragile things benefit from stressors. In contrast, resilient and robust things withstand stressors but do not benefit from them.

If one does just a little bit of a search on YouTube one can find lectures/interviews where Taleb does in fact use Robust to describe this notion...but as the publication date approached he modified his definition (see his Princeton lecture). I'm fine with his flexibility. I watched a couple hours of his performances early this morning. I guess Fooled By Randomness was sufficient for me. But this thread remains off topic...

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Re: A pro-Taleb view on Antifragile

Postby VictoriaF » Tue Dec 04, 2012 4:23 pm

pastafarian wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:
A thread that has "anti-Taleb" in its title does, in fact, have nothing to do with investing. I was trying to remedy that. ;-)

I half expected your post to mention women tossing hotel room keys or knickers at Taleb as if he were the second coming of Sir Thomas John Wodward (Tom Jones) or Arnold George Dorsey (Englebert Humperdink).


Taleb is sufficiently anti-fragile to get stronger upon being attacked by the knickers.

Cheers,

Victoria
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