Praxis

April 17, 2008

Oh For Fuck’s Sake (Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ‘Fooled By Randomness’)

Filed under: Philosophy, Sarcasm, Science, Self indulgence — duncan @ 9:44 pm

[A ranting post very much not worth your time, I’m afraid.]

I’m proud to say that I’ve been writing a deconstructionist-inclined blog for almost a year now, and have never once engaging in a bitter assault on the popular detractors of continental theory. You’ll notice that no interminable post excoriating Sokal and Bricmont has yet appeared. I am a saint.

On the other hand, I’ve just started reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s bestseller ‘Fooled By Randomness’. (In a no doubt misguided attempt to dip my toe into the glibber end of popular accounts of probability theory; I guess I should buckle down and read some real books.) As soon as I figured out the tone, I guessed that an ignorant and philistine invocation of Derrida as charlatan wouldn’t be far away. And, sure enough, on page seven (so soon!) we get an approving reference to a Ph.D. thesis in philosophy. “But not the Derrida continental style of incomprehensible philosophy (that is, incomprehensible to anyone outside of their ranks, like myself).” I gritted my teeth and continued. (Still no ranting blog post! I have the patience of Job!) But then on pages 72-3 we get this – and I boot up my computer.

“Increasingly, a distinction is being made between the scientific intellectual and the literary intellectual – culminating with what is called the ‘science wars’, plotting factions of literate nonscientists against literate scientists. The distinction between the two approaches originated in Vienna in the 1930s, with a collection of physicists who decided that the large gains in science were becoming significant enough to make claims on the field known to belong to the humanities… The Vienna Circle was at the origin of the development of the ideas of Popper, Wittgenstein (in his later phase), Carnap, and flocks of others.”

This is like shooting fish in a barrel. I mean – don’t you think the distinction between the scientific intellectual and the literary intellectual might have had some force before 1930s Vienna? Can the Vienna Circle be entirely accurately described as “a collection of physicists”? Does the later phase of Wittgenstein really originate there (even as a reaction against it)? Be all that as it may; next we get this:

“I suggest reading the hilarious Fashionable Nonsense by Alan Sokal [it’s just inevitable, this reference; the pages might as well be blank; we can fill them in ourselves]… (I was laughing so loudly and so frequently while reading it on a plane that other passengers kept whispering things about me) [Probably ‘what an arsehole’]… Science is method and rigour; it can be identified in the simplest of prose writing. For instance, what struck me while reading Richard Dawkins’ Selfish Gene is that, although the text does not exhibit a single equation, it seems as if it were translated from the language of mathematics.”

Superficial detractors of continental theory often invoke Dawkins as the exemplar of scientific rationality. Don’t get me started on him. (In a word, ‘The Selfish Gene’ is precisely not translated from the language of mathematics, because half the point of the thing is to develop a metaphor – a metaphor, of the ‘selfishness’ of the gene, which may or may not be helpful (and there’s a whole endless debate to be had about the validity of ascribing intentional states to apparently mindless objects, or to parts of/systems within organisms), but that only works as metaphor. Which isn’t to say that Dawkins doesn’t have strictly ‘scientific’ claims to make – but Dawkins himself is perfectly clear (in, for instance, the first chapter of ‘The Extended Phenotype‘) that ‘a change of aspect’, rather than a scientific hypothesis, is the main thing he hopes to advance in his popular science writing.) Anyway.

“[T]here is another, far more entertaining way to make the distinction between the babbler and the thinker. You can sometimes replicate something that can be mistaken for a literary discourse with a Monte Carlo generator but it is not possible randomly to construct a scientific one. Rhetoric can be constructed randomly, but not genuine scientific knowledge.”

If I understand him right, Taleb means, by “Monte Carlo generator”, a computer program that is capable of churning out vast numbers of imaginary events, according to a set of predetermined rules. I can’t pretend to understand [which is why I'm reading this stuff, after all] – with my knowledge of computers, it’s amazing this blog is still in one piece. But (in a fairly superficial way) what Taleb’s saying here is surely wrong. A ‘Monte Carlo generator’ can construct scientific knowledge – as Taleb has already told us.

“It is a fact that ‘true’ mathematicians do not like Monte Carlo methods. They believe that they rob us of the finesse and elegance of mathematics. They call it ‘brute force’. For we can replace a large portion of mathematical knowledge with a Monte Carlo simulator (and other computational tricks). For instance, someone with no formal knowledge of geometry can compute the mysterious, almost mystical, Pi.” (p. 47) If existing mathematical knowledge can be replicated in this way, I find it hard to believe that new mathematical – or scientific – knowledge can’t also be so produced. [Okay, I just did my googling. Wikipedia informs me that in mathematics “[t]he method is useful for obtaining numerical solutions to problems which are too complicated to solve analytically.” I need to learn about this sort of thing.] At any rate, the ability of ‘Monte Carlo generators’ to supply Taleb with knowledge and understanding seems to be the main reason he likes them so much.

Anyway. Next we get this:

“This is the application of Turing’s Test of artificial intelligence, except in reverse. What is the Turing test? [We get a description. Taleb continues:] The converse should be true. A human can be said to be unintelligent if we can replicate his speech by a computer, which we know is unintelligent, and fool a human into believing it was written by a human. Can one produce a piece of work that can be largely mistaken for Derrida entirely randomly?”

Well – let’s charitably put down to ‘humorous’ license Taleb’s ‘reversal’ of the Turing test. And lets ignore the fact that the so called ‘random’ production of any text is random only within incredibly limited bounds – most of the game’s effectiveness depends on the non-randomly selected phrases and rules for the combination of phrases that whatever program Taleb’s describing would consist in. (Just as Taleb’s method of ‘randomly’ computing the value of Pi isn’t random at all except in one of the program’s particular functions.) All that said – the answer to Taleb’s last question is: obviously yes. Of course you can ‘randomly’ produce a piece of text that can be mistaken for Derrida – by people who know fuck all about Derrida. In fact, I’d go further – if the program that produces phrases is sufficiently intelligently set up, I daresay I could be fooled by – or at least not confident in my judgement of the provenance of – some phrase or short sequence of phrases. At some point that would collapse – you’re not going to be able to generate an intelligible essay, or even a longish piece of text, using a ‘random’ method. (And if you can, maybe you should apply for that Turing Test prize money.) But I have no idea what Taleb thinks he’s demonstrating here.

“[T]here are Monte Carlo generators designed to structure such texts and write entire papers. Fed with ‘postmodernist’ texts, they can randomize phrases under a method called recursive grammar, and produce grammatically sound but entirely meaningless sentences that sound like Jacques Derrida, Camille Paglia, and such a crowd. Owing to the fuzziness of his thought, the literary intellectual can be fooled by randomness.”

What bullshit. What copper-plated, cast-iron, dug from a farmer’s prize bull’s ditch of prize bullshit bullshit. According to ‘Fortune’ magazine (I know, I shouldn’t expect much, why did I even buy the fucking thing?) ‘Fooled by Randomness’ is “One of the smartest books of all time.” Well, not so much. Not if it has stuff that even vaguely resembles this in it. Good lord. Why do people take this sort of thing seriously? What’s going on?

I was planning to write more, but I think I’ve reached a pitch of intemperance that requires a hasty close. Don’t buy ‘Fooled by Randomness’. I’ve got it here now, and I’m wondering whether to try to finish it or burn it. I guess I should toss a coin.

[Apologies for this nonsense post. Unusually, I have too much time on my hands today.]

27 Comments

  1. My immediate association, I must admit, was to SCIgen

    Comment by N Pepperell — April 17, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

  2. Well it had me fooled…

    Comment by praxisblog — April 18, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

  3. Congratulations on your (temporarily abandoned?) saintliness! I’ve usually adhered to the principle that Sokal et al are best ignored, (a) because any publicity is good publicity, (b) because life is short, and (c) (a variant of (b)?) because it is better to get on with doing and thinking things rather than denouncing idiocy. That said, I share your prejudices, and commit myself to the cause!

    I know nowt about mathematics, but I’m worried about the appearance of the term metaphor in this posting. I was taught that all knowledge (including that of science) is constitutively metaphorical (Marry Hesse amongst others). There are live metaphors, and there are dead metaphors. And, no doubt, a whole lot of others that are undead, living dead, and/or gratefully dead. To put it differently, all text is shaped, and all text shapes. It is *tropic*. Figurative. It bends and re-figures. If the refiguring is not evident then we are in the realm of what is sometimes called ‘the literal’ (though it isn’t, ever). Here’s the bottom line (or perhaps the opening sentence): metaphor is all around us.

    Obscurely, I think all this relates to the notion of ‘ideology’. Perhaps I’ll comment on that another day….

    Comment by Heterogeneities — April 26, 2008 @ 7:59 pm

    • So I suppose gravity and quantum mechanics are merely metaphors, why don’t you as Sokal suggested test that by jumping out of his window or by finding out how a transistor and hence by extension the computer – you used to post this comment – works.

      Comment by derrida may strategically place his lips on my posterior and kiss it repeatedly — August 14, 2012 @ 10:27 am

      • It would help if you distinguished, in your contempt, between knowledge and the object of knowledge. Heterogeneities’ comment above is, it seems to me, about knowledge – e.g. the discourse of science – rather than the object of knowledge – e.g. the force of gravity. As a separate point, Derrida has never contested the legitimacy of the hard sciences, or the existence of a physical reality describable by the hard sciences. Your ‘jump out of a window’ comment is really beside the point, w/r/t Derrida’s work – it suggests that you don’t know what you’re talking about at a pretty basic level; that you’re basing your complaint on inaccurate hearsay.

        I mean sheesh, it’s not like there isn’t stuff to criticise in Derrida. Why can’t people actually criticise his work for stuff that’s in it? Why has this almost entirely unrelated figure of an alternative straw man Derrida been invented, as if by near universal agreement? Are people truly incapable of reading or understanding any of his work, which really isn’t so impenetrable or obscure? Why are you so confident you’re right, such that you don’t need to make even minimal efforts to read or understand, in your defence of insight and understanding against purported quackery?

        Comment by duncan — August 14, 2012 @ 11:38 am

  4. No joke:

    Last week a friend of mine recommended I read Taleb’s “The Black Swan.” I went to the bookstore, and as “The Black Swan” was out of stock, I decided to purchase “Fooled By Randomness.” I originally began reading it on my couch, but soon relegated it to mere bathroom material (the shit I read while taking shits). In any case, I just finished reading pages 70-75 and came to the conclusion that the book, full of shit as it is, must be farce. I opened up Google, queried “fooled by randomness bullshit” (I was feeling lucky), and was brought here. You can imagine the laugh I had, as well as, the acute feeling of solipsistic paranoia that rushed through my body. After reading your post, I’m probably going to bury the book. After all, only a fool of randomness would continue an attempt to parse such utter garbage.

    Footnote:
    As you outline, Taleb appears to know nothing about basic logic. In his discussion of a Turing test he not only mistakes what a converse is (the converse of the proposition A->B is equal to the proposition B->A – NOT whatever twisted logic he uses), but makes the mistake of believe that the converse of a proposition must (“should”) be true (WRONG – the contrapositive of a proposition must be true – not it’s converse). That is all.

    Comment by anon — May 15, 2008 @ 5:33 am

    • I came upon this page by googling “Nassim Taleb is full of shit” and much enjoyed the read.. good to know I’m not the only one.

      Comment by James — March 29, 2011 @ 3:56 am

      • Ironically, I came upon this page by Googling “Derrida full of shit”.

        Comment by scornucopia — June 21, 2011 @ 3:51 am

  5. Ah google – bringing snarks together. Thanks anon.

    Heterogeneities – I keep meaning to reply to your comment, and never get it together. In ultra brief

    1) I think it would be useful if someone wrote a proper response to Sokal & Bricmont… but as you say, life is short.

    2) I agree that there are problems with using the word ‘metaphor’ in this way… but I also think there are problems with a formula like ‘language is constitutively metaphorical’. Not that I disagree… I just see the ‘two cultures’ wars opening up, and have no interest in pursuing them. I posted on ‘White Mythology’ shortly after this post, I think, which is partly an approach to these unfortunately complicated issues. I’m afraid I haven’t read Marry Hesse.

    This is next to useless… but, you know…

    Thanks for the comments anyhow…

    Comment by praxisblog — May 15, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

  6. Thanks for your honest admission: “Apologies for this nonsense post. Unusually, I have too much time on my hands today.]”

    That says is all. Yes your post is nonence.

    Comment by boffin — January 12, 2009 @ 8:20 pm

  7. Care to elaborate on how the post is nonence? I think you probably mean this in a different sense from me…

    Comment by duncan — January 13, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

  8. I am sorry to notify you that much of your understanding of Taleb is wrong. I suspect it is because of your lack of mathematical background. For instance Monte-Carlo (MC) generators are an application of matrix algebra which assumes that the movement between states only depends on the current state. This memory-less property makes MC useful for simulations (imagine a computer having to remember and apply the effect of every past state to predict future movements). In biology we use MC analysis successfully for genome evolution because the probability that one sequence will change to another only depends on that sequence, not on any ancestral sequence.

    You fail to fully understand Taleb’s arguments. You then assume that because Taleb is going against conventional wisdom that he is full of shit. Taleb is correct in so many ways about probability, and the reason conventional wisdom is wrong is because our intuitions about randomness are crap. If you really want to know why randomness is so confusing (and you are smart enough), read anything by Mandelbrot. Taleb is merely the spokesman for Mandelbrots theories on stock price fluctuations. Mandelbrots theories, though controversial, are solid pieces of work, both mathematically as well as philosophically.

    I hope you allow this post to remain on your site in defense of Taleb’s work.

    Sincerely,
    A biologist that studies bet-hedging in evolution

    Comment by A Biologist — January 14, 2010 @ 12:56 am

  9. A Biologist – well of course I’ll let your comment remain on my site. But I don’t entirely see your point. The information about Monte Carlo generators is useful to me, and I’m totally flag-wavingly neon-light clear in the post that I’m unfamiliar with the math & the modelling involved. That unfamiliarity doesn’t have any impact on what the post says, about Taleb however. I’m not, you’ll notice, disagreeing with Taleb on mathematical grounds. He doesn’t use any math in any of the bits I’m quoting. The only use to which he puts the idea of a Monte Carlo generator, in the bits I’m quoting, is in saying that a paper mistakable for Derrida’s could be produced by a Monte Carlo generator. Well no it couldn’t – not if the person doing the mistaking knows anything about Derrida. So it’s bullshit – and bullshit to which the idea of a Monte Carlo generator adds nothing. (You’re going to have a really hard time convincing me that the assumption that the movement between states only depends on the current state has a significant impact on the ability of a piece of software to generate philosophy articles.)

    Plus, Taleb isn’t going against conventional wisdom, here. This is conventional wisdom.

    What, specifically, do you think is wrong about Taleb in my post? What have I failed to understand in Taleb’s argument that would make the claim that the distinction between scientific intellectual and literary intellectual originated in Vienna in the 1930s anything other than silly? The problem with Taleb, to my mind, is that he’s got some mathematical ability, he’s read some Popper, he’s arrogant as all hell, and he thinks this makes him a polymath. But it don’t.

    Comment by duncan — January 14, 2010 @ 2:04 am

  10. Is this the kind of thing you study? Looks a lot more interesting than Taleb.

    Comment by duncan — January 14, 2010 @ 2:12 am

  11. “You fail to fully understand Taleb’s arguments.” May I remind you that you have made no basis for this claim other than describing with great verbosity the ins and outs of a Monte-Carlo generator, which is besides the point. Thorough knowledge of how a Monte-Carlo generator operates had nothing to do with the point Duncan made- disproving the baffling suggestion that a Derrida-esque philosophy paper requires only a vague idea of what one is!

    “If you really want to know why randomness is so confusing (and you are smart enough)” Sorry sir, I’m probably not smart enough to read Mandelbrot yet but at least I can read other people’s ideas and attempt to refute something cohesively. Is a grasp of basic dialectic not conducive to a career involving maths or science? I’m sorry I have nothing new to add to this discussion, I just wished to outline how appalling this chap’s grasp of digesting and responding to ideas is. As a side note, the other week I think I may have set fire to my copy of “Intellectual Impostures” whilst inebriated? Sokal, Bricmont, Taleb: you bone suckas! Toodle oo!

    Comment by tom — March 11, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  12. * that it could produce a Derrida-esque philosophy paper

    Comment by tom — March 11, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

  13. someone who buys a books called “fooled by randomness” to “dip their toe into the glibber end of popular accounts of probability theory” must be a complete retard. You are so ridiculous, dude. You didnt understand anything in this book.

    Comment by The Dear Leader — March 19, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

    • Not only that but the majority of people supporting his view that posted here are also the ones that did not even finish reading the book. It’s like saying a mathematical formula is wrong while analyzing only half of it and then basing your decision on that. But obviously as they stated themselves – they do not know much about mathematics.

      Secondly what Nicholas points to by providing us with evidence to see ourselves is how random these “philosophers” sound. You can’t say that this really means something other than really wanting to sound intelligent or really wanting to sound like something:
      (From the book Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

      “I suggest this passage from the German “philosopher” (this
      passage was detected, translated and reviled by Karl Popper):

      Sound is the change in the specific condition of segregation of the
      material parts, and in the negation of this condition; merely an
      abstract or an ideal ideality, as it were, of that specification. But this
      change, accordingly, is itself immediately the negation of the material
      specific subsistence; which is, therefore, real ideality of specific
      gravity and cohesion, i.e. – heat. The heating up of sounding bodies,
      just as of beaten and or rubbed ones, is the appearance of heat,
      originating conceptually together with sound.”

      Here I will provide you a text by the Monte Carlo generator made by Andrew C. Bulhak(the guy mentioned in the book), which clearly sounds or reads like other postmodern “philosophers”:

      “1. Baudrillardist simulation and postcultural theory

      In the works of Eco, a predominant concept is the concept of capitalist sexuality. Derrida uses the term ‘subdialectic libertarianism’ to denote a mythopoetical paradox. Thus, Baudrillard promotes the use of Lyotardist narrative to deconstruct class divisions.

      The characteristic theme of the works of Eco is the absurdity of semantic society. Dahmus[1] suggests that we have to choose between constructivism and Sartreist existentialism. But the example of dialectic narrative depicted in Eco’s The Name of the Rose emerges again in The Limits of Interpretation (Advances in Semiotics).

      The primary theme of von Ludwig’s[2] analysis of Lyotardist narrative is a neocapitalist whole. It could be said that if Derridaist reading holds, we have to choose between constructivism and structural discourse.

      Sontag uses the term ‘Lyotardist narrative’ to denote not dematerialism, as postcultural theory suggests, but postdematerialism. However, any number of theories concerning a self-falsifying paradox exist.

      Cameron[3] implies that we have to choose between neodialectic nationalism and Foucaultist power relations. But if constructivism holds, the works of Eco are postmodern.”

      You can do it yourself by visiting this link: http://herbert.the-little-red-haired-girl.org/en/dada/index.html

      Obviously texts CAN be replicated by the Monte Carlo engine but this was not Nicholas’s main point in the book – something praxisblog made it look like by focusing on this. The point was that people are fooled by texts(randomness) like this and they do not take it into account but rather they fall for it.

      Now thirdly I must say that I hate nothing more than this seemingly intelligent way of speaking that praxisblog practices by using complex English words seen only in large vocabularies and in texts by the previous mentioned “philosophers”. Such as: “and there’s a whole endless debate to be had about the validity of ascribing intentional states to apparently mindless objects, or to parts of/systems within organisms”

      Now grow some balls and don’t cry next time you read a valid theory or your favorite philosopher mentioned in a non positive way.

      Also read the fucking book till’ the end before debating anything.

      Comment by BooHoo — September 10, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

  14. ‘Praxisblog’ here.

    I hate nothing more than this seemingly intelligent way of speaking that praxisblog practices by using complex English words seen only in large vocabularies and in texts by the previous mentioned “philosophers”

    You hate nothing more than people using complex English words? Seriously? And I’m the one being a dick here?

    Taleb’s book is nothing like a mathematical formula. A mathematical formula has to be parsed as a whole; Taleb’s book makes many many discrete propositions and sets of propositions that can be evaluated in their own terms. In this post I evaluate one such set of propositions – not, as you say, a central one to Taleb’s book, but a particularly irritating one to anyone who knows anything about the texts Taleb is denigrating.

    Also read the fucking book till’ the end before debating anything.

    Do you think it’s likely that Taleb has ever finished a book by Derrida? Do you think it’s even possible? How far out on the tail of the relevant probability distribution would you say this possibility is? I’d say it’s so far out that it probably qualifies for ‘Black Swan’ status. Or, put another way, Taleb doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.

    Here I will provide you a text by the Monte Carlo generator made by Andrew C. Bulhak(the guy mentioned in the book), which clearly sounds or reads like other postmodern “philosophers”:

    In some incredibly superficial sense it does – but it’s very very obviously not a piece of writing by one of these philosophers, and is easily identifiable as a fake by anyone who knows the field, and as a randomly generated fake by anyone who knows about the damn random text generator.

    In the works of Eco, a predominant concept is the concept of capitalist sexuality.

    No it isn’t; this is not a predominant concept in the works of Eco.

    Derrida uses the term ‘subdialectic libertarianism’ to denote a mythopoetical paradox.

    No he doesn’t; Derrida has never used the term.

    Thus, Baudrillard promotes the use of Lyotardist narrative to deconstruct class divisions.

    This actually, to be fair, could plausibly be written in an essay on Baudrillard. (Random sentence generators are going to produce plausible results some of the time. :-P) But the random accumulation of sentences that make up this ‘essay’ would obviously not be presented as a whole. Even student papers composed of sentences individually plagiarised from diverse sources have more internal cohesion than this randomly generated piece. As one would expect, because the damn thing’s randomly generated.

    But your argument from incredulity is presented with incredible confidence. You can’t see any difference between this randomly generated sequence of sentences, and work by serious intellectual figures – after all, they both make use of words from large vocabularies! – so there cannot be a difference. If you cannot see it, it can’t exist. This reasoning is not only ignorant, it’s moronic.

    This is one of my most regularly-commented-on posts. Taleb evidently has large numbers of fans who don’t know enough to see through his bluff and fakery. Taleb’s cynically exploiting this market, I think – he appeals to (and probably himself experiences) a particular kind of resentment, a desire to be ‘in the know’ and to acquire a status of intellectual superiority without much understanding of the substance of what’s being discussed. Taleb’s fans generally appeal to the math – but the books don’t contain math, they contain gestures towards Taleb’s supposed off-stage mathematical prowess. That prowess may very well be real – I wouldn’t know – but there’s really nothing on the page to provide any evidence for it. I wonder if it’s symptomatic (i.e. projection) that Taleb is so ready to call ‘bluff!’ – so willing to see others’ texts as ignorant shadowplay.

    Comment by duncan — September 11, 2011 @ 12:52 am

    • To your first question. Yes I do. There is nothing more moronic than trying to sound intelligent when intelligence itself is shown by trying to use the simplest of terms to demonstrate an idea. Not the complex of terms. It’s something my professor of Roman law would agree to and he demonstrates it clearly by comparing the clear and understandable language of roman laws compared to the gibberish that is written today.

      Secondly I am amused by how you quote the generated text and then comment on it. I wasn’t involved in writing it so I if you were trying to prove that the statements in the quoted text are false you came out pretty funny. If not it doesn’t matter anyway because it was generated by a computer and what Nicholas was trying to prove is that MOST of people trying to read that other “philosophical” crap(yes I said it) would find it disturbingly random. And by most I’d say not only the “dumb” majority of people.

      Thirdly I have no idea as to how you got the impression that anything he says is bluff or fakery. Taleb is a successful trader and he accumulated his wealth by doing what he says in the book – not being fooled by randomness. In other words he doesn’t invest into “safe bets” or investments that MIGHT be successful(all of the stated are being influenced by randomness therefore there are no safe bets) but he invests when markets crash – when people fall for randomness. And then when the market starts recovering he makes money out of that. It’s pretty simple logic.

      He also puts many cases of people falling for randomness into perspective and I have no idea how the only thing that you managed to pull out of that wonderful book is that “HE’S BLUFFING AND FAKING!”.

      I guess him offending your favorite philosopher got the better of you and you somehow missed the point of the whole book. Good job. You won nothing, neither did you get anything out of it.

      Comment by Anonymous — September 15, 2011 @ 12:04 am

  15. Now please, before answering anything, read this first: http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_04_29_a_blowingup.htm

    All of it.

    Comment by same guy as before — September 15, 2011 @ 1:02 am

  16. I wasn’t involved in writing it

    Jesus wept, stop assuming that everyone else’s comprehension skills are as bad as yours. I know that you didn’t write it. You took it from http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/. That’s what this entire fucking thread is about.

    what Nicholas was trying to prove is that MOST of people trying to read that other “philosophical” crap(yes I said it) would find it disturbingly random.

    And MOST people who read a randomly generated page of complex mathematical equations won’t be able to understand it (because most people don’t have the necessary mathematical training). MOST people who read a randomly generated page of Japanese won’t be able to understand it, because less than a couple hundred million people worldwide speak Japanese. This proves nothing about the meaningfulness or randomness of complex math or of Japanese. Your and Taleb’s statements here about the work of “literary intellectuals” carry about as much weight as the claim that because you can’t read Japanese, it’s impossible for anyone to read Japanese.

    Stop and think about it for a minute. Bracket your intense loathing of long words, and think about the form of the argument you’re making. Is it a valid form of argument? Or is it ridiculous?

    Taleb is a successful trader and he accumulated his wealth by doing what he says in the book

    No he didn’t, because Taleb doesn’t given you close to enough information in this book for you to do anything close to replicating his trading strategy. Taleb’s overall point, more or less in its entirety, is that sometimes really unlikely or unexpected things happen, and that we need to take the possibility of those unlikely or unexpected events into account, as best we can, when making bets. This is, self-evidently, right – it’s advice that, if attended to, could have stopped some traders doing some really idiotic things – but it is not a trading strategy, or in the ballpark of one.

    And of course Taleb’s success or failure as a hedge fund manager has zero to do with his insight into literary intellectuals, the Vienna Circle, Derrida, or any of the other topics that are actually being discussed here.

    I have already read the Gladwell piece, in full. What is your point?

    Comment by duncan — September 15, 2011 @ 1:31 am

  17. [quote]Jesus wept, stop assuming that everyone else’s comprehension skills are as bad as yours. I know that you didn’t write it. You took it from http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/. That’s what this entire fucking thread is about.[/quote]
    You are an idiot. I wrote two options – either you assumed I wrote it or either you didn’t. Are you fucking blind? Did I only say that you assumed I wrote that? No. Jesus wept after hearing about your ability to make simple logical conclusions.

    [quote]And MOST people who read a randomly generated page of complex mathematical equations won’t be able to understand it (because most people don’t have the necessary mathematical training). MOST people who read a randomly generated page of Japanese won’t be able to understand it, because less than a couple hundred million people worldwide speak Japanese. This proves nothing about the meaningfulness or randomness of complex math or of Japanese. Your and Taleb’s statements here about the work of “literary intellectuals” carry about as much weight as the claim that because you can’t read Japanese, it’s impossible for anyone to read Japanese.[/quote]
    Are you a complete retard? How can you compare trying to read a text in Japanese and trying to read a “philosophical” text in English??!!?
    These fallacies you are writing are getting out of hand.
    Of course you won’t understand the text in Japanese because you don’t fucking know how to speak Japanese! But the text can be translated into English and you can normally read it after that! That doesn’t mean that a Derrida text would be any more understandable to a Japanese person if it were translated into Japanese. Because compared to a random text it would be mostly the same – random text(except in that case in Japanese).

    You are comparing two different things and you don’t even know it! Comparing the ability to understand a different language and the ability to understand a philosophical text is something totally different. I mean this statement alone shows what an idiot you are.

    [quote]No he didn’t, because Taleb doesn’t given you close to enough information in this book for you to do anything close to replicating his trading strategy. Taleb’s overall point, more or less in its entirety, is that sometimes really unlikely or unexpected things happen, and that we need to take the possibility of those unlikely or unexpected events into account, as best we can, when making bets. This is, self-evidently, right – it’s advice that, if attended to, could have stopped some traders doing some really idiotic things – but it is not a trading strategy, or in the ballpark of one.[/quote]
    Yes he did. By avoiding taking decisions that have too many random factors influencing them. He doesn’t need to write about his exact methods of trading because the point of the book is not to teach you how to trade. It is to tell you that you shouldn’t trade if you don’t take randomness into account. You should probably avoid trading in any case from what I can understand him. This book is not a manual on trading. In fact Nassim points to the opposite. If everyone would be trading like him he would be out of business. Because there would be no market crashes. There wouldn’t probably even be a market. Maybe if stocks actually had anything to do with the success of a company, but that is something else. Speculation is bad, don’t do it. He gives a million reasons for that. Simply because you can get fooled by randomness.

    [quote]And of course Taleb’s success or failure as a hedge fund manager has zero to do with his insight into literary intellectuals, the Vienna Circle, Derrida, or any of the other topics that are actually being discussed here.[/quote]
    Again showing your idiotic view on the book. This biased opinion makes you think that his theory is incorrect. I said that he’s successful because you said he was “bluffing and faking”. He cannot be bluffing or faking his theory because it proves him successful over and over again.

    Yet if you think that by bluffing he was talking about something he knew nothing about you don’t know that yourself. You do not know if he read Derrida or not. Yet his argument still stands. You can be fooled into thinking it’s a “philosophical” text when it is not.

    Comment by same guy as before — September 15, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

  18. Alright, well I think we’ve learned pretty much everything we’re going to from each other. In final response:

    I wrote two options

    Yes, you did – and it was entirely obvious, or should have been, which was the right one. Hence my comment.

    Because compared to a random text it would be mostly the same – random text(except in that case in Japanese).

    Except, of course, that it’s not random text. You see what I’m saying? That it’s not random text? That there are identifiable differences between the intelligent and scholarly work of Derrida, and randomly generated text? You understand that this is my claim? That this claim cannot simply be vanished out of existence by you repeating, again and again, that Derrida’s work is indistinguishable from randomly generated text?

    Yet his argument still stands. You can be fooled into thinking it’s a “philosophical” text when it is not.

    And yet the assertion and re-assertion never stops coming. I guess I’ll leave the thread to sit again for a while. You have plenty of company in your convictions.

    Comment by duncan — September 15, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

  19. You took the words right off of the tips of my fingers.

    Have a nice day.

    Comment by same guy as before — September 15, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

  20. praxisblog, I have to agree with your detractors.. your arguments don’t have any salient points that resonate for me and in some cases I feel like you’re just plain not understanding the material.

    Comment by anotherdude — August 1, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

  21. Ok but do you have anything beyond that conviction that you can articulate? It’s not in itself very relevant, what personally resonates or does not resonate with you. What, specifically, have I misunderstood?

    Comment by duncan — August 1, 2012 @ 9:35 pm


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