Nassim Taleb comes across as an arrogant plonker who knows a lot. Maybe he's got cause to be arrogant; maybe he hasn't. I liked the ideas in his Black Swan book even though I found it hard to read, chaotic at times, and, well, I confess, I never finished it. His "style" puts me off his substance, although, now that I think about it, he reminds me a lot of a friend I knew years ago who was bi-polar, so now I feel bad for discussing his style, rather than his substance.
You can read a very well written article about him on The Times.
This bit stood out:
For the non-mathematician, probability is an indecipherably complex field. But Taleb makes it easy by proving all the mathematics wrong. Let me introduce you to Brooklyn-born Fat Tony and academically inclined Dr John, two of Taleb’s creations. You toss a coin 40 times and it comes up heads every time. What is the chance of it coming up heads the 41st time? Dr John gives the answer drummed into the heads of every statistic student: 50/50. Fat Tony shakes his head and says the chances are no more than 1%. “You are either full of crap,” he says, “or a pure sucker to buy that 50% business. The coin gotta be loaded.”
The chances of a coin coming up heads 41 times are so small as to be effectively impossible in this universe. It is far, far more likely that somebody is cheating. Fat Tony wins. Dr John is the sucker. And the one thing that drives Taleb more than anything else is the determination not to be a sucker. Dr John is the economist or banker who thinks he can manage risk through mathematics. Fat Tony relies only on what happens in the real world.