Nassim Taleb is a trader-turned-scholar; one of the rare few who escape the cut-and-thrust to lead a life academic. If you’ve never heard the name, you’ve certainly come across his work: he’s the author of the internationally best-selling book The Black Swan.
Taleb is fascinated by probability, uncertainty, and randomness, and, as Distinguished Professor of Risk Engineering at New York University Polytechnic Institute, he spends much of his time thinking about how humans can make decisions in a world they never fully understand. Such thinking has been crystallized in his trilogy of books — Antifragile, The Black Swan, and Fooled by Randomness — which deal with issues such as rare and unpredictable events, human nature, and coping with chaotic information.
Fortunately for Oxonians, Taleb is leading the Saïd Business School’s BT Centre Public Lecture later this month at the Sheldonian Theatre, where he’ll expand on some of his fascinating ideas in person. His talk will present a roadmap for living in a world that is unpredictable and chaotic, and explain how society can thrive during moments of disaster. It will, unsurprisingly, draw on the latest addition to his trilogy of books, Antifragile, in order to explain how embracing randomness, uncertainty, opacity, and disorder can — perhaps counterintuitively — prove rewarding.
You see, what Taleb refers to as antifragile are things that not only gain from chaos, but need it in order to survive and flourish. Antifragile, he argues, is something beyond the resilient: the resilient resists shocks and stays the same, the antifragile gets better. The lecture, then, will focus on how systems as diverse as medicine, economics, politics — even evolution — work best when they embrace chaos. It promises to be fascinating.
The event takes place on Friday 11 January 2013 from 17:15. It is free to attend, but does require online registration.