Nassim Taleb Biography | Taleb Profile and Background of Black Swan

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Nassim Taleb Biography | Taleb Profile and Background of Black Swan
Jos Nieland, Teacher, Netherlands

FAMILIY BACKGROUND: Nassim Nicolas Taleb was born in Amioun, Lebanon in 1960 as son of an old, well known family. His father was an oncologist and his grandfather vice prime minister of Lebanon.

EDUCATION: Taleb received an MBA from Wharton and a PhD from the University of Paris.

CAREER: He was a trader for BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, UBS en started and owned Empirica Capital. He is an advisor of Universa Investments. Was market maker at the derivatives market in Chicago.

CURRENT OCCUPATIONS: Taleb is a distinguished Professor Risk Engineering at New York Polytechnic Institute. Also he is an advisor of the IMF (not paid), to develop financial and potentially fiscal applications of his simple heuristic to detect fragility, model error and hidden tail exposures.

BACKGROUND BLACK SWAN: In 1975 the civil war in Lebanon started. After 800 years of peace! It was a Black Swan. Nobody knew what was going on and they thought the war would soon be over. But it lasted for 15 years. This proved to Taleb that life is not linear! Uncertainty, randomness and the idea of non-linearity became an obsession for Taleb.

CURRENT INTERESTS: Taleb's main interests are in line with these obsessions: decision making under incomplete understanding ("opacity"), epistemology, probability, "fragility", decision theory (complex domains, tail events, and robust and convex heuristics,"antifragility"), ancient Mediterranean systems of ethics and decision-making heuristics.

INFLUENCES: Taleb is influenced by: D. Kahneman, Hume, Bayle, Montaigne, Poincare, Popper, Sextus Empiricus, Al Gazal, Seneca and Huet.

RELIGION: Taleb is Greek-Othodox. He thinks religion is not about believing but about trust. And religion contains a lot of systems of ethics & decision-making heuristics. He doesn’t understand why people are making fun about bishops but take economists at CNBC serious.

HEALTH: Taleb had throat cancer but has been cured. Though he is very critical about medical care. Taleb thinks we have to life by subtraction not by admission; more prevention and less treatment.

LANGUAGES: Taleb speaks fluent English, French and classical Arabic. Has a conversational Italian and Spanish. He can read Greek, Latin, Aramaic, ancient Hebrew. His hobby is philology (ancient languages).

2001/2005 - Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, Random House & Penguin (2005 2nd Ed.)
2007/2010 - The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Random House & Penguin (2010 2nd modified edition)
2010 - Force et Fragilité, reflexions philosophiques et empiriques. Paris: Les Belles Lettres - adapted from the postcript to the 2nd ed. of The Black Swan
2010 - The Bed of Procrustes, Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms, Penguin & Random House
2012 - Antifragility, in preparation, Penguin and Random House

1997 - Dynamic Hedging: Managing Vanilla and Exotic Options, J. Wiley
2012 - Mathematical and Technical Notes and Papers Associated with The Black Swan and The Fourth Quadrant (freely available Ebook)


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