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Nassim Taleb: "the Pathology of our time — the loss of contact with reality"
Material posted : Administrator Publication date: 21-05-2018

One of the most famous philosophers of our time, told RBC about the most terrible threats to humanity, the influential class of "intelligent idiots" and the new book is working

Nassim Taleb, an American essayist, economist and trader. World famous Taleb brought the book "the Black Swan. Under the sign of unpredictability", released in 2007. According to Taleb, almost all events that have significant consequences for markets, global policies and people's lives are completely unpredictable. Thus, traditional risk management, which apply to state agencies and companies, is useless. The theory gained popularity in the background of the unfolding financial crisis of 2008, which became a living illustration to the arguments of Taleb. The Times newspaper called Taleb the most outstanding thinker of the world, but he is not a theorist: "black Monday", October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones fell by 22.6%, Taleb earned in the stock trading about $40 million Nassim Taleb told RBC that respects Vladimir Putin, what do you expect from Donald trump and what's not to like journalists.

"Theorists rarely become rich."

— Recently you wrote in his Facebook account: "Observation about the present: too high the pace of change is fatal". It's a common fear: people are afraid that the influx of migrants, changes in culture, destruction of the old gender roles, etc. will lead to the collapse of Western civilization. We're waiting for the collapse?

— In itself the development of beneficial and inevitable, the only question is how we adapt. If society adapts fast enough to changes, it will collapse. But too fast a device turns into regress: a society begins to lose the good that he had before the transformation began. Before to carry out new reforms, you need to ensure that previous work. But the main problem with globalization is not the migrants and the destruction of the usual foundations. One of the biggest disappointments of our age — globalization has not led to the intellectual diversity did not rise to pluralism of opinions. On the contrary, we see that the whole world starts to behave as a centralized system: the society is being clustered, there is a division into "ours" and "yours". Instead of the proclaimed freedom of opinion creates a situation resembling life in a totalitarian state: there is an official opinion that you should separate, or become an outcast.

In other words, an open society was an unfulfilled dream, and we live in a world divided into highbrow readers of The New York Times and the simple-minded viewers of Fox News?

— Without a doubt. History is full of examples where society was divided into groups, warring with each other for absurd reasons. In the Byzantine Empire, people were divided into political parties, depending on which command support at the racetrack is "blue" or "green", they are regularly going to slaughter. It's no worse and no better than those religious groups who destroyed each other because they adhere to a different theology. All this deep in human nature. But if such polarisation takes place on a planetary level, it's dangerous. And, of course, in many respects it occurs thanks to the media.

— Phrase of the year was fake news ("fake news"). Even trump has won the sympathy of voters is largely due to the fact that he chose the way of fighter mediapreferences. Why the media many now began to be perceived as evil?

Because they create a situation in which people live in two different worlds. For example, almost everything that CNN reports on the conflict in Syria is a lie. I felt it when I was in Aleppo: the private eyes you see one, the news is completely different. Who is lying — your eyes or the TV station? The trouble is that among Western journalists who formed an intellectual monoculture. If you're trying to show what's really going on, you're stigmatized as "Putinists" and then you will not get work on major American channels. Is the Inquisition of our time that punishes opinions different from the official one.

Nassim Taleb (Photo: BBI)

It is believed that the media are manipulated in the main opinion of rednecks, "hard workers", but also CNN is trusted by well-educated people.

— Their audience — those whom I call "intellectual idiots". Really just rednecks cheat is incredibly difficult. If you're looking for someone to cheat, the best candidate is someone like the reader of The New Yorker. This person reasons that if I'm an intellectual (and I, of course, intellectual) — so I understand what's happening in the world. He despises redneck, considering them incapable of critical thinking. However, he does not realize a simple thing: any man who does not feed himself an intellectual labor — this is the default expert, because his profession is directly connected with the real world. For example, the plumber — the expert for pipe laying and so on. Their experience is based on interaction with everyday life, and they are very critical to the dogmas of thinking. Educated people, on the contrary, often tend to come from the crazy ideas that have no relationship to reality. And the more time and effort you devote to the study of macroporous, whether it is macroeconomics or global policy, the higher the chances eventually of being in a "macroderma".

— Why is this happening?

Because an educated person receives information mainly not from the outside world and from other people — from magazines, social networks, from different authorities. The worst pathologies of our time — the loss of contact with reality. When I make the trading on the stock exchange, you are often faced with a special type of traders who have figured out a script on the computer, and then rest assured that in reality, everything is the same. The best question which confuses them with aplomb: "And how much you have in the Bank account?" Because theorists rarely become rich: a person is able to make sound decisions only if it is included in reality. Now there is a whole class of pseudo — incompetent people who think they are competent.

— It seems to me that people in the mass do not try to build a whole world, and catch some high-profile ideas. For example, I know a lot of those who are against state intervention in the economy and at the same time the expansion of social programs. As if one contradicts the other.

Yes, people operate on slogans. For example, some say that they are feminists, and then you see that they prefer to hire men. Others exclaim: I am against racism and social inequality! But ask them when they last came for dinner-Pakistani taxi driver. The honest answer is: never. It's all the same life in two different worlds — in the conversation with other enlightened people you are a racist, but in the real world are afraid of migrants. And everything becomes much worse when this duality comes to politics. Why do politicians of our time are so irresponsible? Because they don't threaten the consequences of their decisions. In the book, I'm working with (Skin In the Game. The Thrills and Logic of Risk Taking ("Risk his skin. Fears and the logic of risk-taking"). — RBC), I defend the opinion: adequate decisions are taken only when a person is "risking his hide." Now politicians run their countries and the world like in computer game play: the risks of zero, and hence solutions will be inadequate.

"Whatever global issue did a bureaucrat, he doesn't take it to heart"

— What are the main threats to humanity do you see in the near future? Shall we expect a new global crisis or a major war?

— I don't think soon we will come to this, "hot" world war. War is good for some States and some companies, but there are not too many. Most of the power that can really afford to wage war, I prefer to do it by proxy.

Two great threats to mankind have no relation neither to wars, nor to economic crises. The biggest risk is a new epidemic. Media is underestimating this danger, and rarely raise the hype around the scientific publications that the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics is growing, or that there are new strains of viruses. Such neglect makes the epidemic one of the most likely candidates for new "black swans". The second threat is neoluddism. Progress does not bring people what they would like, and many become ultra-conservatives are beginning to fight with science and social reforms. This trend is clearly visible in the Islamic world.

— And the biggest opportunity, which is now not to be missed?

— A movement from below, who oppose totalitarian "official opinion". For example, the ones we are seeing now in Catalonia. Yes, it has not led to the emergence of a separate state. But in the case of Catalonia, we see an attempt of people to Express opinion, which is not imposed by the state. Need more such movements, as they lead to decentralization, the opportunity to try out the maximum number of different variants of administrative organization and choose the ones that suit the people themselves.

Photo: BBI

— Published in the Network fragment from your new book, you compared the Russian leader with the heads of the Western States, and concludes: "Looking for a confrontation with Putin, other leaders, I realized that at home (and sterilized) animal no chance against a wild predator." What is this conclusion?

— I am a Christian from Lebanon, and my attitude to Putin is largely due to this detail biography. Russia did not intervene in the Syrian conflict, Lebanese Christians would have been dead. But I had something else in mind — the difference in the approaches of States to the war in Syria. The Western powers reacted to it as bureaucrats. What global problem do a bureaucrat, he doesn't take it to heart. His interests and risks are in a completely different game career, he wants to keep his job and earn political dividends. For the peoples living in the region, this approach is disastrous. History teaches us that Nations that have signed the agreement with the bureaucrats, remained then only to suck his paw (Taleb used the phrase suck cock, but to translate it, we can not due to limitations of Roskomnadzor. — RBC). Lebanese Christians are heartless approach of Western bureaucrats to their problem disgusting. They see that Putin is really involved in the problem: he intervened in the conflict, knowing full well the kind of criticism for him, it would all turn out. And this willingness to not be a sheep and make decisions at your own risk, it is nice.

— How do you assess the work of Donald trump?

— Trump is not the President, who was elected for the constructive programme. He was chosen in the hope that it will reduce its overgrown state apparatus, and he did indeed cancel some programs and laws passed by the lobbyists. His Forte is that he's a businessman and sees the country as a big company. He sees where you need to cut back on expenses. But the foreign policy trump showed unpleasant metamorphosis. Before the election he openly said that Saudi Arabia is sponsoring terrorism and was going to to her very strict policy. Now he became the best friend of this country. It was completely unexpected.

"The richer a company is, the faster its employees become slaves"

In your new book you write that constant work is the new slavery. If so, why would employees agree? A hundred years ago people understood that losing a job can starve. Today in a developed country it can live on welfare or find a more lenient employer.

— I've talked with many economists, and eventually came to the conclusion that the more one pays, the more he feels himself a slave. It's kind of a way of manipulation on the part of the employer: the person must feel that he overpaid, then he will be afraid of losing their jobs. That is why the richer a company is, the faster its employees become slaves. But slavery is beneficial for all without exception companies. Another thing is that some of them "enslave" rough — for example, impose on the employees beliefs that are contrary to their ethics.

Is there any chance that slavery would end new technology? For example, Uber and Airbnb have replaced full-time employees floor contractors.

— Their experience is applicable in a very limited number of sectors: only few companies have been able to work, relying only on the contractors. The effect that new technologies have on society as a whole is exaggerated. Did the social network to the fact that we stopped to chat live or to watch TV? Displace whether Uber private vehicles? In the United States and then discuss the tragedy that was the fault of the owners, and limiting the use of private vehicles. And during a recent visit to Moscow, I was faced with the monstrous traffic jams, although Uber you already hard at work. Any new technology will not save you from all problems. Will Airbnb to the fact that people will no longer live in their apartments, and will travel the world, changing tens of dwellings? No. Of all the technologies that promise to change the world, I believe is that in the new energy. Just because I use it. My house is completely Autonomous and works on solar energy, I drive a Tesla.

— What is your impression of Russia? What problems are visible to the naked eye?

— Russia always inspiring, this is a deeply intellectual place. I often visit Russia, and each time I am struck by one feature of your people: they often work not for money but for the sake of some abstract ideas. I don't know whether your people that the Soviet Union and this tradition is still from pre-revolutionary times. But your government and companies have a lot to do in order to use this potential. New York companies have a lot of Russian mathematicians. Why are they forced to leave their homeland? Why you can't use their talents at home? That is something you need to think about very seriously.

— How can human beings hold? Our officials in the best case economic considerations operate in the spirit of "now, GDP will grow, and life will be good". But the correlation between quality of life and the formal economy are false.

Politicians and economists love beautiful figures, and false correlation. It's like doctors who tell people about the dangers of cholesterol. In fact, if we are not talking about over-the-top performance, between cholesterol and your health there is almost no correlation. What makes people happier? I think that Russia's decision could be the same decentralization. I'm not talking about political but about the operating decentralization — people should be able to make decisions that affect their lives, participate in governance at least on the ground. It would be good for business and for life in the country as a whole.

Nassim Taleb (Photo: BBI)

— Now, many companies, including in Russia, obsessed with efficiency, their leaders are adopting new working methods. But employees continue to complain that their load of meaningless tasks. Why is this happening?

— In any company is one of the variants of the Pareto principle: 80% of the work gets done by 20% of employees, and of these 20% of employees have their 20% that give 80% of their output. I would advise companies not engage in new methods, and people — find the right employees and give them more opportunities.


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