The last aphorism is one of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's favourite, or rather the one "he likes more than others".
Taleb, a Lebanese "technical philosopher", likes turning things on their head and, he confesses, that he is not too popular for it (especially with economists). The 50-year-old author of the bestsellers, Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness, was in Mumbai on Friday with his latest offering, The Bed of Procrustes, a book of aphorisms.
While religion and ethics might promote the idea of good and imbibe fear of retribution, for Taleb the idea is that one does good because they are good. "This is pre-Christian thought. It is part of your nature to do something regardless of the pay off. This is unconditional but these values are lost today," said the former Wall Street trader, risk expert and practitioner of mathematical finance.
But the finance expert says that he hates finance. "I hate rich men and businessmen. I enjoy erudite people. I have lunches and dinners with thinkers. It makes life more interesting." But what about the two years he spent getting an MBA from Wharton Business School. "I was bored so I did the MBA. I enjoyed it though."
Quiz him about his books and he quickly says, "An author should not need to explain his book. It means he has not put enough effort in it. Everything should be in the book."
Taleb said all his work is part of one corpus of the same idea. "It is like writing a chapter in a bigger book… One idea has different manifestations," he said.
His next work, Anti Fragility, decodes how to live in a world we don't understand. "I take the exact opposite track to all traditions that stemmed from Aristotle. Instead of using knowledge as a basis of decision, I use the lack of knowledge as a basis of decision. It is turning everything on its head…"
Another theory that Taleb turns on its head is criticism. "I need more critics than I have today. Any idea that is criticised but not destroyed only gets stronger. No one has been able to counter my two central points of unpredictability and what to do with unpredictability."