I Just completed reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s new book Antifragile–Things That Gain from Disorder. Mr. Taleb is definitely a brilliant man. By profession he has been a quantitative analyst in the securities market, working with highly advanced statistical modeling. He has also been a professor in a number of notable universities. He has seen problems that traditional theories of all kinds fail to account for, which lead to major problems that though are hard to predict when they happen they are catastrophic, what he calls the Black Swan event or big tail event. People either love or hate him, there are many in the securities world that hate him, others who appreciate his thinking, his fans. He is one who does not suffer fools gladly, strives to be extremely honest and does not tolerate what he considers to be dishonest and evil. He uses material from roman and greek classical periods, history, philosophy to illustrate the points he makes, and characters like Fat Tony and Nero to help us understand his ideas. The book is a hard read, it is very demanding but enjoyable. For those who are more skilled in advanced math such as calculus and statistics, some of his ideas will be clearer. He is however rather arrogant around some areas that he discusses, while his critical thinking is appreciated and we need to be looking at the world we deal with, with a critical eye and not accepting at face value what the experts or talking heads tell us to think or believe, but discussing public health, medicine and psychiatry with no training is a real problem.
The Fractalist: Benoit B. Mandelbrot is a memoir about the life of a highly gifted mathematician, who identified himself as a Maverick who didn’t agree with the current trends. He grew up Jewish in Poland before World War II and later left to France and then later the United States. It goes into a lot of his early life, growing up and the influences of hist parents, mathemetician uncle in Pre-War Poland that at the time had Elementary schools that were very well run with very bright teachers. In those days, there were few opportunities to work in academic research so many very talented people taught in the schools. His family was lucky and were spared the worst of the holocaust, but were lucky to have escaped, but experienced the discrimination that others felt. Those who are involved in math and computer graphics are probably familiar with his Mandelbrot Set, though influenced by his discovery that Fractals are what nature and much of life is made of, giving order to randomness.