28 October, 2020

Supercalifragilistic

A former stockbroker draws us a multicoloured map—to tell us how to go without maps into the Unknown

Supercalifragilistic
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Theory-making is an a posteriori exercise. From empirical observation and some tinkering about are drawn exp­lanations and rules for what is supposed will be effective, what will not, and why. This bottom-up approach is readily acknowledged of fields such as rhetoric. No one knows the first tricolon; everyone recognises it in Caesar’s “Veni, vidi, vici”; someone is creating one of his own right now. Theory, which can be seen as a collection of heuristic templates, itself becomes a template for action. In the world of mathematical modelling for finance and stockbroking—of which Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a former quant, has had humbling and exhilarating experien­ces—theory-in-action has in recent years come to be equated with disaster. During the time, displaying ‘antifragility’ of the kind he associates with prostitution and taxi-driving, Taleb has thrived by writing about those experiences. His first two books, Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan, made straightforward points: that we are slaves to randomness and...

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