Taleb and the language of risk

Black Swan by T Mann courtesy of Wikipedia

The original Black Swan

Last night I read about The Black Swan a.k.a. Nassim Taleb on EL&U SE (English Language and Usage StackExchange website). Apparently Professor Taleb wants to introduce a new word to the vocabulary of global financial collapse, antifragility:

So let us coin the appellation “antifragile” for anything that, on average, (i.e. in expectation) benefits from variability.

Consensus on EL&U was that this was blatant tub-thumping by Taleb.

The original Black Swan

I agree with my EL&U comrades-in-arms: Antifragility will cause obfuscation. There are many adequate, extant words*that Taleb could use. Instead, he is intent on creating a term that will be uniquely associated with him. I am not convinced that there ARE any entities that benefit from variability. A delta hedge that is long volatility is the only construct that I can think of off-hand, and I don’t think something that contrived was what Taleb had in mind.

Nassim Taleb already co-opted “Black Swan”. If Thomas Mann were still alive, I think he would have a decent case for plagiarism or even theft of intellectual property. Couldn’t Taleb have thought of an expression that wasn’t previously used by someone who won a Nobel Prize in Literature, who wrote a book with the same title, and pertaining to an anomalous event, also known as a statistical outlier?

Anyway, after the briefest of browsing on a search engine or two for antifragility, antonyms and humor, I found Fragile Web Development with SQL on Rails(more…)

Published in: on February 1, 2012 at 6:28 am  Comments (8)  
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