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Mar 13

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Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Skin

Two footnotes in this book reveal in stark detail the character (of a total lack of it) of the author. I have no choice but to reproduce the two obscene, insensitive and uncalled for footnotes as they appear in the book:

  •  ·       Actually I usually joke that my death plus someone I don’t like surviving, such as the journalistic                          Professor Steven Pinker, is worse than just my death;
  •           Just consider that: it is impossible for a billion people to sleep with Kim Kardashian (even her) ……

Any author, whether he falls under the category of a universally acclaimed talent or is recognized as a self-proclaimed expert in his chosen field of expertise (such as Nicholas Nassim Taleb), who stoops to such despicable heights involving denigration of a woman’s character and bemoaning the survival of a fellow author does not deserve to get his books published;

This book is just Taleb’s vehicle for launching a diatribe against all with whose views he nurses an inexplicable grouse. The list of his damned is an illustrious who’s who including Nobel Laureates in Economics, Paul Krugman and Richard Thaler, the scientist Richard Dawkins, thinker, social scientist and eminent thinker – and Taleb’s pet peeve – Steven Pinker, and one of the greatest book critics ever – Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times. Taleb, with undisguised impunity, designates his avowed foes IYIs or “Intellectuals Yet Idiots”. In fact, going by recent unfortunate trends, all those disagreeing with Taleb’s ideas, howsoever outlandish or impractical are dubbed IYIs;

Taleb, with this book, proves that he is one of the most condescending, pompous and self-aggrandizing authors ever to have written a book, to the detriment of common sense and judiciousness. Just consider this passage from one of the Chapters in the book, “he (IYI)doesn’t use Yiddish words even when talking business; he studies grammar before speaking a language; he has a cousin who worked with someone who knows the Queen; he has never read Frédéric Dard, Libanius Antiochus, Michael Oakeshott, John Gray, Ammianus Marcellinus, Ibn Battuta, Saadia Gaon, or Joseph de Maistre; he has never gotten drunk with Russians; he never drinks to the point where he starts breaking glasses (or, preferably, chairs); he doesn’t even know the difference between Hecate and Hecuba (which in Brooklynese is “can’t tell sh**t from shinola”); he doesn’t know that there is no difference between “pseudointellectual” and “intellectual” in the absence of skin in the game; he has mentioned quantum mechanics at least twice in the past five years in conversations that had nothing to do with physics. The IYI likes to use buzzwords….”

I GIVE UP!!!

Taleb, unwittingly and unknowingly (a shame for one who professes to predict events before they even occur), acknowledges his pitiful cowardice in a Chapter where he makes reference to the egregious and ultra-talented, late Susan Sontag. Having been humiliatingly snubbed by her in a social event, he goes on to list her supposed ‘foibles’ – after her demise. “No, she did not grow her own vegetables, it turned out. Two years later, I accidentally found her obituary (I waited a decade and a half before writing about the incident to avoid speaking ill of the departed). People in publishing were complaining about…….). An unmanly gesture for a man who bores his readers by gloating over his weightlifting abilities in every alternative page!

 What about the book itself? Ah yes the bloody book. Surprisingly among all the books that have been authored by this irascible and intolerable character, this is the one which is most accessible, direct and logical, (when not dealing with personal rivalries, egotistical self-compliments, character assassinations, moral insinuations and the likes that is). The logic that a person must have a skin in the game before goading other to assume risks is a concept that warrants further examination and analysis (especially when one is dealing with investment bankers). A point to ponder from this book would be the following passage:“good rule for society is to oblige those who start in public office to pledge never subsequently to earn from the private sector more than a set amount; the rest should go to the taxpayer. This will ensure sincerity in, literally, “service”—where employees are supposedly underpaid because of their emotional reward from serving society”.

  • Taleb in fact might be an imbecile suffering from a bout of dementia as well. The proof of the pudding lies in the eating. So here goes: “The other customers seemed, as we say in Mediterranean languages, to have a cork plugged in their behind obstructing proper ventilation, causing the vapors to build on the inside of the gastrointestinal walls, leading to the irritable type of decorum you only notice in the educated semi-upper classes. I noted that, in addition to the plugged corks, all the men wore ties”. I rest my case

The hypocrite that is Taleb, deceives himself with writing balderdash, gibberish and malarkey. For e.g. he professes that usage of harsh, uncomplimentary and abuse words on social media such as Twitter bears monument to the strength of an individual. Upon a review of “Antifragile”, his earlier book that was nonsense personified, when I expressed my feelings in the form of a splurge of unwelcome adjectives on Taleb’s Twitter handle, the fraud blocked me! So much for a man professing he virtues of antifragility and not being cowed down! Taleb is not only a synonym for hypocrisy but also a living testament of cowardice!

To conclude, the image which I visualize of Taleb is that of a disgruntled, desolate, disheveled and dejected old man, bereft of friends, shorn of company, emptied of all beliefs, sitting in a dimly lit ramshackle corner, putting his pernicious and prejudiced thoughts to paper, knowing very well that all they represent is a load of bunkum and trash, but still gripped in an unfortunate fervor of pretentiousness, condescension, loathing and arrogance. While this visualization might yet be a mere figment of my imagination, I am not willing to bet that this would not materialize as a Black Swan event.

About the author

Venkat

maniacal penchant for books, more books, still more books and lot more books - When I am not watching cricket that is! Love my Scotch and scribble for fun!

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