Some of the most memorable turns of phrase are aphorisms.  Ben Franklin had many:

A penny saved is a penny earned.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

A good aphorism is a tool that help people make sense of the world in simple and easy to remember ways.

Enter Nassim Taleb: former financial trader, author, philosopher, and now, aphorist.   Nassim is on Twitter exclusively writing aphorisms.  Many of his aphorisms concern paleo.  I’ve included a selection below.  Have a look, and vote on your favorite in the comments.

 

Technology’s double punishment is to make us both age prematurely and live longer.
 
Deficits are similar to carbs: the more you eat, the hungrier you get.
 
You have a real life when most of what you fear has the titillating prospect of adventure.
 
The only objective definition of aging is when a person starts to discuss aging.
 
Social media are antisocial, health foods are empirically unhealthy, knowledge workers are ignorant, & social sciences aren’t scientific
 
If you know, in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead -the more precision, the more dead.

Technology is the unrelenting mollification of man, that self-inflicted injury…
 
The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.
 
In nature we never repeat the same motion. In captivity (office, gym, commute, sports), life is just repetitive stress injury. No randomness
 
Before checking the news today, check how much the 400-700 hours of nongossip media exposure in 2007 helped you make sense of 2008, etc.
 
Atheism/materialism means treating the dead as if they were unborn. I won’t. By respecting the sacred you reinvent religion.
 
I wonder if a lion (or a cannibal) would pay a high premium for free-range humans.
 
Modernity: We created youth without heroism, age without wisdom, and life without grandeur.
 
And I’ll add one that I wrote:
 
Domestication is both the seed and the fruit of civilization.
 
Want to give it a try?  As Nassim puts it, a good maxim should 1) surprise you, 2) be true, and 3) be symmetric (one assertion, one negation) or rhythmic.

 


12 Responses to “The wisdom of Nassim Taleb”

  1. marc says:

    Those are my favorites:

    "In nature we never repeat the same motion. In captivity (office, gym, commute, sports), life is just repetitive stress injury. No randomness"

    "If you know, in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead -the more precision, the more dead."

  2. Byrne says:

    He had a good one this morning:

    The characteristic feature of the loser is to bemoan mankind’s flaws, biases, & irrationality –without exploiting them for fun and profit.

    This is true. Better to be John Paulson than Barney Frank; make a positive difference, and have more fun too.

  3. Alexandra says:

    The more you concern yourself with saving time, the less you find your time is worth.

  4. Michael says:

    I was reading some of Taleb’s aphorisms on his Opacity site just the other day.  This was one of my favorites:  

    "Medieval man was a cog in a wheel he did not understand; modern man is a cog in a more complicated system he thinks he understands."

     

     

     

  5. Jim says:

    My fav from Nassim is: "Mathematics is to knowledge what an artificial hand is to a real hand." Everything he writes seems to hit me squarely between the eyes. Thank you, jim

  6. Vassilis says:

    Social media are antisocial, health foods are empirically unhealthy, knowledge workers are gnorant, & social sciences aren’t scientific is clearly my personal favourite from this list…

  7. jeffrey says:

    the one I like most is “Modernity: We created youth without heroism, age without wisdom, and life without grandeur.” This has force me to make sure my wisdow increase according to age. It’s a continuous soul searching process.

    • Ed says:

      This one goes right along with that: "The classical man’s worst fear was inglorious death; the modern man’s worst fear is just death."

      Erwan Le Corre says: "Freedom is just like strength, health, happiness. It’s more a process demanding consistent attention than a state you reach once and for all." I agree with you Jeffrey and would add wisdom to that as well.

      One of my favorites from Nassim Taleb is: "You have a real life when most of what you fear has the titillating prospect of adventure." But it is hard to pick a favorite, because they are all spot on.

       

  8. RadRad says:

     I made this one up while reading the book BADASS.

    "If you wish to turn a boy into a man, teach him to use a weapon. If you wish to turn a man into a baby, give him a weapon that requires no skill."

  9. Rob Mathews says:

    The one that strikes me the most of this list is:

    If you know, in the morning, what your day looks like with any precision, you are a little bit dead -the more precision, the more dead.

    I think we are physically constructed and mentally wired to meet all the randomness that has always existed in nature.  Probably the more programmed or limited we are mentally, physically or diet-wise, the less capable we are to cope, and the more our systems break down and wear out from the same exposure. 

    Maybe I’ll add one one that I just came up with….

    The more variety today in life, the more life in tomorrow!

    • bert says:

      what if i can predict exactly what i am going to do tomorrow, and i know i am going to enjoy the hell out of it? 

      this is the type of thought people who dislike routine would come up with, applying it with broad brush to all of humanity, even whilst other types of people thrive (and some can only thrive) in routine.

      what about musicians, artists or athletes who know their day will be spent focused on a specific piece or goal?  they know precisely what they are going to do, and yet, they may be  fulfilled to their very core anticipating it and doing it.    

       

  10. M Miller says:

     For some odd reason, I’ve only recently started reading and paying attention to Taleb. What a fascinating person and great thinker!

    I wonder if a lion (or a cannibal) would pay a high premium for free-range humans

    In explaining to my mom why I eat grass-fed beef, I recently asked her about what type of person she would prefer to cannibalize and then apply the same logic to cows. It’s so obvious.

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