The Re-Read List (RRL)

Contrary to those never ending reading lists, inhere we will only share Lindy books that deserve not only to be read but re-read several times. Those books that renew themselves when reopened, in which you may find new hidden details or deeper layers of knowledge.

by

Giovanni H. Uribe & Oliver López-Corona


N.N. Taleb INCERTO

Oliver López Corona opinion:

Now I have a yuge problem, I’ve tried a couple of times and it is really impossible to make a fair resume of it. In fact I’m convinced that the wisdom density in this book is so high that it is basically incompressible. So don’t expect a nice summary of it, although I’ve included links to The Swedish Investor “5 takeaways” series on the book.  

For me, this book is called to be one of the most important ones in history (I’m not exaggerating), it is highly original, of immense erudition, fun and enjoyable to read… in many aspects it has changed my life for good. 

Although you will find them as separated books, they are not. Also you may read them in any order, even inside chapters most of the time are stand alone “essays” that interact with each others and from that interaction, emerges the Incerto as a yuge treatise of uncertainty: sources, effects, assessment, conceptualization, how to cope with it, and so on. In some way it is a fractal book in which knowledge flows through multiple scales, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and volumes.

 One of the most interesting features of the Incerto is that Maestro Taleb is not an academic (in the bad sense of the word) nor an intellectual. He made tings in the reverse order… he began as a trader and then, fascinated by his deep observation of randomness manifested in trading, he went back to study a PhD in probability driven by necessity and passion. After many years of practice he became a writer and ultimately a self own scientist.

Also peculiar, the book is about probability as philosophy, probability as logic thinking, probability and risk taking, it has non-fiction (science thinking), fiction and some biographical notes… so it is not only uncompressible, it is also uncategorizable.

The first volume of the Incerto is Fooled by randomness which uncover the central role of randomness in life. Maestro Taleb shows us how naive interpretations of randomness fools us and leads to all sorts of poor decisions. He debunks the meritocracy fallacy by making some great examples out of trading, many years before the now famous Barabasi’s book on the topic “The Formula”. 

Already in  Fooled by randomness, Taleb presents the key concept of The Black Swan, title of the second volume of  Incerto. Inhere maestro introduces us to a new mental set that recognizes the differences of Mediocristan and Extremistan, in which The Black Swan phenomena takes place.

Once that Maestro make the case for the central role of randomness in life, specifically the kind of randomness that we found on Extremistan, including the existence of totally unpredictable, very rare and unexplainable (prospectively): the The Black Swan; Taleb continues asking how can we navigate then in an uncertain world we basically does not understand? The answer to this question is developed in the third and maybe the central, volume of Incerto.

Antifragile introduces a new concept to understand how systems respond to perturbations in terms of concavity (Fragility) or convexity (antifragility) in the payoff space… meaning if a system loses or gains from randomness, volatility and time (the ultimate source of randomness). In this volume Maestro explores Antifragility from different perspectives analysing how to apply them in life, health improvement, business, and so on. 

If the The Black Swan deals with the inference problem under uncertainty, or how to reach good reasoning from incomplete, unreliable information;  Antifragile is shown as the solution that nature arrived by means of evolutionary processes, so it turns out to be a universal principle in complex systems.

In this sense, one of the most robust solutions under underceintity is not trying to achieve optimal solutions but “soft” solutions known as heuristics, which may be better placed using aphorisms as Taleb does in Incerto’s forth volume: The Bed of Procrustes.

Not included on this edition, but on the Delux Incerto one, we have also Skin in the game, or the ethical aspects of understanding risk, uncertainty and decision making. It again introduces novel concepts or novel interpretation of them, as the case of the  practical perspective of ergodicity, explaining for example the differences between risk that happens only once and repeated risk exposure. Skin in the game is not about incentives a la Jobs but about risk asymmetry (i.e. risk externalization) a la Hammurabi. 

There is a chapter in Skin in the game where Maestro talks about how modern work is comparable to slavery. I read this chapter on medium before reading anything else about Taleb. It has so profound effect on me, that I refused a Tenure offer in a prestigious university in order to avoid that trap. 

For those interested in the probability (as math) foundations of the Incerto we have also the technical counterpart in the volume one: Statistical Consequences of Fat Tails. This is a superb mathematical book, yes technical but still very readable, understandable and even fun.