Written: April 3, 2015
“what Mother Nature does is rigorous until proven otherwise; what humans and science do is flawed until proven otherwise.”
Although the author hates Top Ten lists and specifically a top ten list of his favorite books, I do. I don’t agree with everything this author says, which is good, because if you do, you’re not taking his advice and thinking independently. This book falls in the top six of my list. It’s not especially a well-written and organized book and sometimes can get dry and hard to read, but the ideas are mind-blowing and will destroy your preconceptions and these are the kinds of things I like in a book. I am a rebel thinker and the author is a rebel thinker, much more well-read though. He is not an establishment, boring academic intellect who craves accolades and awards. He is the rock star of intellects, defying establishment, undermining them, and predictably being scorned and ridiculed by them. Of course, the intensity of their ridicule makes them doth protest too much and brings even more credibility to his criticism. Oddly enough, as well-read and smart Taleb is, he doesn’t mention Hermeneutics, but much of what he says is related to Hermeneutics. Taleb’s basic thesis is that everything you have learned from the academic establishment is horseshit. It is pro-establishment, conformity brainwashing that is designed to either numb your mind and deter you from reading and learning or narrow your mind and compel you to only think in such a way that not only does not threaten the establishment but supports it. And by establishment, I (not Taleb) am talking about a ten thousand-year-old system of converting the majority of humanity into livestock for the betterment of a few wealthy and powerful humans.
Specifically, Taleb is pointing criticism at the constricted manner of viewing reality supported by both some ancient philosophers and modern Enlightenment rationalist thinkers. Taleb supports Dionysian thinking, creativity, spontaneity, and although he doesn’t mention it, Hermeneutics. The problem with history is that it is not only written by the victors, but it is written by sycophant academic thinkers who rarely question authority and instead provide them with all the rationalization they need to continue their oppression. The biggest modern lie is that the Enlightenment took us out of the dark ages of religious dogma and unleashed the creativity of free thought that brought us science and technology and the Industrial Revolution and everything cool and awesome with it. It did take us away from superstitions and religion, but it’s a pendulum that swung way too far to the other side. It rejected the past and everything important we learned from the past and put all our eggs in the future and unnatural technological advances. It limited our imagination to only what was known, what could be described in words, and what could be proven by the scientific method. It dismissed all other human experience, what is actually the most important part of human experience, the things that can never be fully described in words, known fully, or proven by the scientific method. Naysayers will argue that I and Taleb are just trying to push everyone back into the dark ages of superstitions, but this is exactly their rationalizing deception, that without modern civilization, we would all descend into chaos, savagery, and evil. Quite the other way around, before modern civilization, there was no such thing as genocide, global wars, wars based on ideology, and the murder of tens of millions of your own people and the incarceration of large portions of your population and even worse, the widespread apathy of those who have things. Americans are the top 1 percenters of the world, and when is the last time any American did anything to help the poor 99% of the world in Africa, South America, the Middle East, or Asia?
The Age of Reason is anything but reason. It is nothing more than the new religion of science, progress, and technology. Naysayers argue that to oppose them is to oppose science, reason, progress, and technology. This is like saying that if you don’t support war, you don’t support our troops and America. I support science, progress, reason, and technology, but ONLY and ONLY IF it is used properly and judiciously to improve humanity and not just a small percentage of rich assholes. Taleb brilliantly notes that technology does not seem to be inventing new ways of doing things easier, what it seems to be doing is inventing new ways of doing old things despite all the new inventions that keep us from doing old things. Look at Facebook. “Progress” has destroyed community and our sense of belonging to a close-knit group of people who support us and recognize our contributions and provide us with a sense of identity and meaning and purpose in life. Facebook does not invent a new way of connecting but simulates the old way of connecting, the old community of people giving you ‘likes’ or approval for doing things entertaining and meaningful. It gives you back a small sense of your social identity. Technology should not be a big, fat, metal box that obscures your view of nature and stops you from doing what you enjoy. It should rather be invisible and somehow allows you a better view of nature and facilitates you allowing you to enjoy good old fashioned face-to-face social interaction. Unfortunately, today, technology is that big, fat, metal box, but it’s there for a reason. It is not there to serve us but rather to serve a few rich assholes. That metal box convinces us that the only way it will allow us to see nature and interact with other people is to feed it, to consume what it is selling us, to buy into its premise that material wealth leads to happiness and social approval, that consumption is the only way you will ever get friends and happiness. So we are slaves not to God or a priest or religion, but to the metal box of technology, progress, and science, which is actually nothing but a guise for the face of new tyranny.
Antifragile is something that grows and learns from stress and actually shrivels and recedes without exposure to stress. Humans are supposed to be Antifragile, but our unquestioning belief in the religion of science turns us into fragile anemic babies that must be protected from nature. Instead of God protecting us from our evil ways, it is science and industrialists who protect us from nature, each other, and our savage inclinations. Ironically, it is not based on science or reason. Think about this carefully. We are banned from using electronic devices during airline take-off and landing, because it may interfere with airplane navigation. Hasn’t been proven, but just to be on the safe side right? Then why don’t we ban GMOs? We could ban GMOs for the same reason. They may interfere with the natural ecosystem and create unforeseen catastrophe. Hasn’t been proven, but just to be on the safe side right? Don’t you get it? Science, technology, and logic are not being used to benefit you. They’re being used to benefit the few rich and powerful. They change the laws of physics and logic whenever it’s convenient. Climate change? Don’t believe it, a very small minority of scientists have proven the data is flawed. GMOs threatening the ecosystem? Don’t believe it. Only a very small minority of scientists have proven the data in support of it is flawed. Get it?
Taleb was right about the banking collapse, and I am only hopeful that he is right about the collapse of large corporations and centralized banking. He calls these system fragile and the most vulnerable to Black Swan events, unpredictable, emergent, large events. And it makes sense. The banking collapse was the result of too few banks controlling too much of the economy thereby exposing the entire global economy to collapse. Once they failed, they should have been either replaced or divided up into smaller parts. Instead, we rewarded them with a huge bailout. I have yet to understand why the masses don’t see the huge logical flaw here. It is like the LA Lakers losing in the NBA Playoffs. But since they’re so much larger than teams that did advance, should every team in the league bail them out by giving them millions more dollars to get better talent? Should Oklahoma donate Kevin Durant to the LA Lakers to get them back on track, because they’re too big to fail? This is preposterous thinking. But then why does it only apply to banks???? And why don’t most Americans realize the Federal Reserve is nothing but a private banking cartel that is allowed to lend the federal government money it neither makes nor owns? Not only is it allowed to create money at the lowest interest rates, but then it can turn around and lend that money to the federal government and the federal government not only must pay back the principal but the interest as well. This is like an oil cartel where not only do they get the oil on federal land for a negligible fee, but they get to sell that oil to the federal government at a profit.
Fortunately, there are more and more thinkers like Taleb and there are more and more books on the market that resonate his sentiments. We are being lied to, all throughout our education process, even through college now that professors are getting kick-backs from major corporations and banks for bogus research. We continue to be lied to by mainstream media. They falsely argue that they support logic, science, technology, and everyone against them is against logic, science, and technology. Fact is, like the old religious leaders, they contrive scripture and only use it when it’s convenient for them. They are as much supporters of logic, science, and technology as old religious leaders were supporters of scripture and its original messages. While Taleb discounts youthful thinking as most fragile since it hasn’t been tested by time and experience, he does note that it also has not been as tarnished by the accumulation of wrong, traditional, conventional, pro-establishment thinking. I have more faith in our youth. They are less enamored of corporations and big organizations. They get it. The big banks and corporations not only failed the economy, they failed to hire them, so they’re pissed off at them, and they will get their pay back. As they ascend the ladder of power and gain wealth, they will execute their vendetta against the big bastards who impoverished them in their youth. Alternate capital fundraising, alternate banking, even alternate currency, the old rich bastards are doomed. Ironically, by impoverishing today’s youth, the rich assholes have only made them more Antifragile and adaptable and more inclined to think outside and work outside the old corporate, big banking metal box of oppression.
Taleb admits that throughout his schooling, he survived by ignoring the required readings and simply used his greater intellect and vocabulary to obfuscate and confuse his idiot teachers. Sometimes, throughout this book, I notice that he seems inclined to do just this. The problem with books like these are that while they may be written by intellects for intellects, movements don’t happen without the masses. Someone needs to distill this big, long, often dry book into something like 150 pages of witty anecdotes and soundbites. You don’t risk dumbing down the message too much. The message is rather clear. We are being lied to, our conventional mode of thinking is wrong, and there is more to the world than can be explained by science or described in words, and we need chaos and stress to grow and learn. How hard was that? Also, one more point. The upside of change cannot be predicted because of its emergent qualities. Throw four ideas together, and new combinations will give rise to ideas never thought of before. However, the downside of change is predictable. A flood will destroy homes. People will be homeless. How difficult to predict is that? But what if the flood spills chemicals in a lab and a chemist discovers something new that leads to the eradication of a major disease? Destruction has predictable consequences of suffering and pain, and once a human is dead, they’re very predictable, they don’t do anything but decompose. But give birth to one baby, you don’t know if you just gave birth to the next Einstein, Mozart, or Kim Kardashian.
Here’s my other top books:
Dylan Ratigan 2012 Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry
Michael Pollan 2011 Omnivore’s Dilemma
Daniel Goleman 1996 Emotional Intelligence
Daron Robinson, James Acemoglu 2012 Why Nations Fail
Daniel Quinn 1997 The Story of B
Max Tegmark 2014 Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality
David Boaz 1998 Libertarianism: A Primer
Stephen Hawking 2012 The Grand Design
Michael S. Gazzaniga 2011 Who’s in Charge
David DiSalvo 2012 What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite
Francis Fukuyama 2012 The Origins of Political Order
Stanley E. Porter 2011 Hermeneutics: An Introduction to Interpretive Theory
Martin EP Seligman 2012 Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being